IT’S the very low-end (VLE) devices driving the CDMA market skyward. As per latest figures provided by the CDMA Development Group (CDG), the CDMA subscriber base has crossed 50 million across India and VLE devices, including mobile and landline, have been able to bring the growth up to 5%.
CDG COO James Person says: “CDMA2000 is equally adept in serving a variety of telecommunications scenarios most economically, from urban centres to rural areas, from fixed to mobile deployments, from telephone to television services, and from ultra low-end (pre-paid) to high-end (post-paid) devices. As a result, CDMA2000 is quickly becoming the technology of choice for emerging markets.”
CDMA2000 is the technology used in CDMA phones and is the most widely deployed 3G technology globally. The CDG attributes this rapid growth in the region to the economic delivery of differentiated value-added services, network expansion into the rural areas of India and the growing availability of very low-end (VLE) devices. The catalysts in achieving the growth rate have been more effective in the rural areas across the country, including regions having high tele-density such as Punjab and Kerala.
Reliance Communications and Tata Teleservices, the only players in India offering CDMA services have cut through competition offered by GSM players that currently hold a majority in the telecom industry. VLE devices, such as Reliance Classic series and value added services such added talktime from Tata Teleservices, seemed to have created a market, specially in the rural areas for CDMA, which is now apparently growing faster than GSM.
“With up to 2.01 million net subscriber additions in June 2007, CDMA2000’s 5% growth rate exceeded that of GSM, at 4.1%. Reliance Communications and Tata Teleservices, who are among the top 20 fastest-growing operators in the world, are investing in the CDMA2000 business to further accelerate this growth rate. CDMA2000 devices have witnessed 50% year-on-year growth since 2003, with more OEMs participating than with GSM,” added CDG India country head BV Raman.
CDMA2000 operators will begin upgrading existing networks to advanced mobile broadband technology in the industry - EV-DO Rev A for enabling affordable broadband internet access and value-added services in both rural and urban markets. BSNL has already announced tariff plans for EV-DO broadband data service. In addition, Reliance will also expand its network to reach more than 20,000 towns and 300,000 villages.
However, the ambitious CDMA plans will have to be revved up as the GSM subscriber base has increased to 136 million. According to Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the All India GSM subscriber base grew from 130.6 million in May 2007 to 136 million in June 2007 – recording an addition of 5.4 million in June.
GSM service providers, including Bharti-Airtel, Hutch and Idea are rapidly enhancing coverage and reach of service, which is getting reflected in the healthy subscriber growth, said COAI director general TV Ramachandran. In fact, the markets which the CDMA players target across the country also form part of the highest growth sectors for GSM. As per COAI, among all circles, those in Category B witnessed the highest growth rate at nearly 5%. The highest growth was recorded by the UP (West) Circle at 6.5%. Further, Category C circles witnessed a growth of 3.2% where Orissa recorded highest growth at 5.4% followed by Himachal Pradesh at 3.9%.