India: Still booming, attracting investment

If you're looking for a hot-house of telecom activity that seems (for now) untouched by the ravaged global economic crunch, look no further than India, where millions of new mobile lines are still being activated each month, and where vendors and carriers alike are still investing heavily. (See A Guide to India's Telecom Operators.)

Mobile tops 300 million
The Indian mobile market continues to mushroom. By the end of August its total number of lines reached 305 million, with 9.16 million new subscriptions having been added that month.

September is set to see another giant leap in the total as the Cellular Operators Association of India has already announced that 7.7 million new GSM lines were activated in September. That figure will be boosted by the CDMA operators, including Reliance Communications , which is still to announce September additions for both its CDMA and GSM networks.

And it's possible that India might even manage to top the 10 million mobile subscriber additions threshold in the coming months as more of the operators that received new licenses earlier this year launch new networks and services. (See Shyam Launches CDMA Service.)

The market for fixed broadband is still crawling, though. At the end of August there were 4.73 million broadband (greater than 256 Kbit/s) lines, an increase of about 160,000 during the month. (See Puzzling Out India.)

Some of India's carriers still have high hopes for fixed broadband, though, especially those that have IPTV service aspirations. (See UTSI, Optibase Land Goa Gig, Indian Carriers Commit to GPON, UTStarcom Wins India Deal, Aksh Extends With UTStarcom, and Microsoft Seals $500M IPTV Deal.)

Network expansion deals
As subscriber numbers rise, and the use of mobile data services grows, so the operators are investing in their networks. (See
India's Mobile Data Explosion.)

While the impending 3G spectrum auction will likely trigger a new round of mobile infrastructure deals in 2009 and beyond, there's still plenty of 2G buildout to be undertaken: Chinese vendor ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063 - message board; Hong Kong: 0763) is the latest equipment firm to benefit, winning a $400 million deal to supply GSM operator Aircel Ltd. with additional network equipment. (See ZTE Wins India Deal, Aircel Touts Subs, BSNL Trials 3G, and India Edges Closer to 3G.)

There's business to be done in the fixed networks too: ECI Telecom Ltd. has recently landed a deal in India with an as-yet-unidentified operator for its new carrier Ethernet switch, as well as optical and access gear; and Sterlite Technologies Ltd. has landed fiber deals with national carrier Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd.


(BSNL) and the Power Grid Corporation of India. (See ECI Makes Ethernet Headway, Sterlite Wins BSNL Deal, and Sterlite Wins in India.)

Investing in India
The ongoing growth in India is also attracting further investment from international firms that need to meet the growing demands of Indian customers, as well as make use of the burgeoning pool of technical talent in India.

Nokia Siemens Networks , which has its increasingly important global Services division based in India, has just inaugurated a new $70 million facility in Oragadam near Chennai. The new site will eventually employ about 400 staff. (See NSN Opens India Facility.)

Test vendor has also increased its presence, announcing a proof-of-concept lab in Bangalore that, eventually, will be able to run service tests that emulate 500,000 end users. (See Ixia Opens Bangalore Lab.)

And Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO - message board), in partnership with operator Tata Communications Ltd. , has opened a number of TelePresence rooms that can be rented on an hourly basis. Rooms are already available in Mumbai, Bangalore, and Chennai, with more to come. The move is part of Cisco's international conferencing services strategy. (See Tata Touts Telepresence and Cisco: Get a Room!.)

The demand for inbound and outbound business services has also led to IP node expansion around India by Verizon Business , which is investing in services and customer support facilities as well. (See Verizon Business Expands in India.)