The operators added more than 8m mobile-phone subscribers in October, bringing the total to over 217m. India has met its ambitious target, set two years ago, of 250m fixed and mobile-phone connections. But the government is sadly unprepared. It has not given India’s mobile operators enough space on the radio spectrum to carry calls crisply and reliably. India, the operators complain, faces a “spectrum crunch”.
In November Sunil Mittal, the chairman of Bharti Airtel, wrote to India’s telecoms secretary describing the “extreme anguish” caused by the “pitiful” amounts of spectrum granted to operators using GSM technology, the dominant standard that is used by three-quarters of Indian subscribers. The government had said it would provide extra spectrum to firms once they had amassed enough subscribers. Airtel, for example, was supposed to receive an additional allotment in Delhi once it passed 1.6m subscribers. It now has over 3.6m and is still waiting.
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