Wireless Wars

tata-docomo-logoWhile most businesses and industries around the world are struggling to get back to their glory days of 2007, one industry that continues to sky rocket is the wireless industry…at least in India.  As of July 31, 2009 there are over 441 million wireless connections.  I don’t think anyone could have predicted the hugh uptake in wireless, just 4 years ago there were only 70 million connections. Of course, the average revenue per subscriber (ARPU) is a paltry USD 4 a month, but it’s a numbers game – the more numbers the better. I could go on and on about the statics of the Indian wireless market but luckily the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) conveniently provides a mind crushing PDF every quarter that slices and dices the data.

On a more local level, the latest wireless carrier to enter the fierce Bombay market is Tata DOCOMO. It’s a joint venture between the largest industrial group in India – The Tata Group and Japan’s NTT DOCOMO. This will be Tata’s second wireless network in Bombay, they have an existing CDMA network while the new venture is based on GSM.

The question arises does Bombay need yet another mobile carrier? Apparently, the Tata’s feel their is space for one more carrier. With the latest entrant we now have 9 carriers: Aircel, Airtel, BPL, Idea, MTNL, Reliance, Tata (CDMA), Tata (GSM) and Vodafone. The Virgin Mobile brand in Bombay is just reselling the Tata (CDMA) service, almost like an Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO).

So what’s the current selling point for Tata DOCOMO – per second billing and a 3G ready network.  That’s not enough of an offer to swing me over as a customer, but if number portability comes into play that’s another story.  You could see many people switch over just for the per second billing feature, remember the average bill in India is USD 4 per month…so seconds count. Of course, Airtel and Vodafone could just turn that feature on as well.

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