The Indian government is targeting 250 million telephone connections in the country by next year, and plans to step up to 500 million connections by 2010, the country’s minister for communications and information technology, Dayanidhi Maran announced Wednesday in Delhi.
India is witnessing a fast expansion in telephone services, with the country adding since December more than 4 million subscribers each month. The number of telephone connections, both fixed and wireless, in the country has doubled in the past two years to about 150 million, mainly fueled by mobile telephony.
At the end of April, mobile telephone connections were more than double the number of fixed telephone connections in the country, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in Delhi.
The government plans to expand coverage of mobile services to 85 percent of the geographical area of the country by next year, Maran said.
The communications ministry has approached the defense ministry to release 45 MHz of spectrum by the end of this year to enable service providers to add more subscribers, improve quality of service and introduce third-generation (3G) services.
The ministry has also asked the TRAI to recommend the allocation and pricing model for the 3G frequency, Maran told reporters on Wednesday.
The growth in telecom services has attracted a number of multinational equipment makers including Nokia of Espoo, Finland to set up manufacturing in India. The government-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam, a large service provider, has said that it will insist on local manufacture of the equipment it purchases.
Telecom and IT equipment manufacturing is crucial for job creation, Maran said. The government expects about US$11 billion investment in manufacturing in the next two to three years. The software and services outsourcing boom in India has provided job opportunities to engineers and plain graduates, but has not helped semi-skilled workers.
-John Ribeiro, IDG News Service
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