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Indian government leaves villages call waiting

Urban Indians own four times as many phones as their rural counterparts, as the country's teledensity growth slowed to just over 10 percent to reach 76.75 percent in 2012.
Written by Mahesh Sharma, Correspondent

In the six months to October 2012, the number of telephones per 100 people--or "teledensity"--for Indians living in cities was 159 percent. In contrast, this figure in rural areas was 40 percent.

In other words, while metro Indians have one and a half phones each, their rural counterparts barely access half a phone between them, according to latest figures released by the Department of Telecom in the government's Economic Survey 2012. The report did not include the percentage of mobile devices versus landlines.

The country's teledensity is a closely watched government metric. While the Indian government trumpeted the overall teledensity figure of 76.75 percent, year-on-year growth slowed to just over 10 percent. This is a far cry from the almost 50 percent growth between 2010 and 2011.

However, the number of phones in villages nearly doubled over the past two years. In 2011, there were over 640,000 villages in India, according to the latest census data.
Last year, the government released the National Telecom Policy (NTP) 2012, which aimed to boost adoption of telephone, mobile, and broadband services to "maximize public good". Its goals included increasing rural teledensity to 70 percent by 2017, and 100 percent by 2020.
It appears there is still work to be done to bring villages into the mobile era. In November 2012, the government installed 581,572 public telephones in villages, providing almost 97.97 percent coverage. It erected 7,310 mobile towers, as part of the Universal Service Obligation Fund, and service providers commissioned another 15,971 base transceiver stations at the towers to provision mobile services.

The government, with state-owned telco BSNL, has built 10,076 broadband kiosks, and connected 391,245 people, families and businesses to wire-line broadband services by leveraging existing rural exchanges and copper lines.
It also committed approximately US$4 billion to build a national fiber optic network which will connect 250,000 local village governments, known as "panchayats", and provide high-speed broadband connection.

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