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India warned to boost internet access

20 января 2009

India, one of the fastest-growing mobile telephone markets in the world, is in danger of being left behind by other emerging markets unless it takes urgent steps to boost its access to the internet, research sponsored by Vodafone, the UK telecoms company, has shown.

Research on the effect of mobile phones on the Indian economy, released Monday, comes ahead of an auction for third-generation (3G) spectrum and broadband wireless airwaves, originally scheduled for later this month. The auction now faces delays over a change to its reserve price.

Rajiv Kumar, director of the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), Vodafone’s research partner, warned that India’s “very low” penetration of internet would be a drag on the country’s global competitiveness.

The restricted access was out of kilter with the country’s information-hungry “high quality of human resource” and would render India uncompetitive against the likes of China, Korea and Indonesia.

India, Asia’s third-largest economy, has less than 5 per cent internet penetration and only 0.4 per cent in broadband services. In some states, such as Bihar and Assam, internet was almost non-existent, research said.

Across the country, about 32m mobile subscribers access the internet through wireless networks, alongside 11m people who access it through fixed-line technology.

Restricted internet access lags a booming mobile phone market, which now numbers about 350m users.

Mobile subscribers are rising by a staggering 10m a month, but teledensity – the number of telephones in use per 100 people – is 32 per cent in India, below neighbours Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Usage varies widely between states. While Delhi, the capital city, has teledensity of more than 100 per cent, that of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, is only 18 per cent.

Mobile companies, such as Vodafone Essar, Reliance and Bharti Airtel, have driven the fast-paced growth by offering services costing as little as Rs1 a minute. But they complain that limited access to spectrum raises their costs and reduces service quality.

Siddhartha Behura, the telecommunications secretary, said Monday that spectrum management would have to be reconsidered as the country prepared to embrace 3G technology.

Источник: Financial Times

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