India added 14.4 million mobile subscribers in July

Growth continues unabated as service providers target rural markets

India added 14.4 million new mobile subscribers in July, bringing the total number of mobile subscribers in the country to 442 million, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said on Thursday.

The demand for mobile phones has been growing despite an economic downturn because Indians view mobile phones as a necessity, said analyst firm IDC India. The increase in July can also be attributed to new rollouts by some service providers and a focus by large operators on rural markets.

The country added 12 million new subscribers in June. The number of fixed line subscribers in the country continued to decline from 37.54 million in June to 37.41 million in July.

The country's largest mobile operator, Bharti Airtel, added 2.8 million subscribers in July for a total of 105 million subscribers. Reliance Communications, the second largest player, added 2.4 million subscribers, bringing its total up to 82 million.

Tata Teleservices, which is rolling out its GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) services under the Tata DoCoMo brand, saw the number of subscribers for its GSM and CDMA services grow by 2.3 million to 39.4 million in July.

Tata Teleservices added 624,905 subscribers in June. NTT DoCoMo holds a 26 percent stake in the company.

State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam added 1.6 million mobile subscribers in July, taking its total to 56 million.

Indian mobile operators and handset makers are targeting India's rural markets. Nokia announced this week plans to launch micro-finance schemes across rural areas in 12 Indian states. The plan means people can buy a handset and pay it off in weekly installments for as little as 100 Indian rupees (US$2).

Analyst firms such as Gartner, however, describe India's rural market as low margin and too geographically spread out to be comparable to the country's urban market.

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