India hits one billion mobile phone subscribers

New Delhi (AFP) –


India notched up its billionth mobile phone subscriber in October, the country's telecoms regulator said, underscoring the importance of its fast-growing mobile market, the world's second-largest after China.

Mobile phone subscriptions have boomed in India in recent years as aggressive cost-cutting by telecoms providers has driven down prices, leading to some of the cheapest tariffs in the world.

The number of mobile subscribers rose by nearly 7 million in October from the previous month to surpass one billion, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India said Wednesday, hitting a milestone that China reached in 2012.

"It is a matter of great pride for us. It shows an empowered India and an engaged India and a tech-savvy India," Communications and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told the Times of India newspaper.

"It will mean more data, more government-to-government connectivity, more broadband," he said.

The figures do not indicate that India has one billion individual mobile phone users, however, as many people have more than one connection.

And in poorer Indian states such as Bihar, "teledensity" -- the penetration of telephone connections for every hundred people -- is as low as 54 percent, the telecoms regulator said.

For many people in India a mobile phone represents their sole means of accessing the Internet, as smartphones leapfrog desktops as the most common way of getting online.