2007 South Asian - Mobile Communications and Mobile Data Markets

Publication Overview

This annual report offers a wealth of information on the Mobile Communications and Mobile Data markets in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Subjects covered include:

  • Overview, Regional Characteristics, Growth and Market Structure
  • Mobile Technologies - GSM, CDMA, PCN/PCS
  • Mobile Services - Prepaid, fixed-mobile convergence, gaming
  • Mobile Data - Market Overview, SMS, MMS, GPRS, WAP, Mobile TV
  • Overview on 3G
  • Mobile Satellite Services

Executive Summary

This Asia market report covers the 8 economies in the South Asia sub-region. It takes an overall look at the various telecoms markets, together with a particular look at the mobile communications and mobile data markets in each of the economies.

The markets covered include: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

Of the 1.1 billion mobile subscribers in Asia by March 2007, 245 million of these were to be found in South Asia. The growth of the mobile telephony and data markets across South Asia has been dominated by the strong activity in the more heavily populated countries of the sub-region – India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. There was also surprisingly strong activity in the mobile sector in the strife-torn market of Afghanistan, as a competitive market ensured 100% annual subscriber growth. In fact, it is fair to say that all eight countries in South Asia have been experiencing booming mobile markets.

South Asia mobile markets – subscribers, penetration and annual change – March 2007

Country Penetration Subscribers
Annual change
Afghanistan (e) 8% 2.2 100%
Bangladesh 16% 23.9 104%
Bhutan 3% 0.06 53%
India 14% 153.5 72%
Maldives 73% 0.3 22%
Nepal 4% 1.2 88%
Pakistan 33% 55.5 104%
Sri Lanka 30% 6.0 62%
(Source: BuddeComm)

Highlights in the individual mobile markets of South Asia include:


In 2003, the second GSM mobile service in the country was launched, while another two mobile licences were issued in September 2005. The arrival of competition boosted the market. By end-2005, the mobile subscriber base had rapidly moved to about 1.2 million (about 4% penetration). The expansion has continued at around 100% annual growth rate and by early 2007, there were an estimated 2.2 million mobile subscribers. New operator Areeba also had about 250,000 subscribers by early 2007. For the country overview, see chapter 2, page 5.


Bangladesh ranks among the most densely populated countries on the globe, but its fixed-line teledensity remains the lowest in South Asia. With teledensity at less than 1%, only a relatively small proportion of the population has had access to any telecom facility. Almost 99% of homes lack a telephone and there is a four year waiting list for a fixed-line service. The situation is worse in the rural villages, with more than 90% of Bangladesh’s telephone services located in urban areas. This has set the scene for a massive expansion of the country’s mobile market. There have been a number of consecutive years of strong growth (138% in 2005, 90% in 2006), and growth was continuing at 100%+ coming into 2007. Mobile penetration was still only 16% (20 million mobile subscribers) by March 2007. For the country overview, see chapter 3, page 10.


A country that preferred to remain isolated from the world for a long time, Bhutan has taken steps in recent times to improve its telecommunications capability. To do so it has had to overcome the country’s mountainous landscape. While the country had a basic connection to the outside world as early as 1974, with the introduction of trunk calls between Bhutan and India, it was not until 1999 that television, satellite dishes and Internet services started to appear. The tiny country proceeded to invest relatively heavily – to the tune of around US$27 million – in telecommunications infrastructure between 1996 and 2002 to provide the country with a modern fixed line network. In late 2003, the country’s first mobile service was launched by Bhutan Telecom (b-mobile) and by early 2007 was claiming 64,000 subscribers, giving a mobile penetration of about 3% (ITU reports a higher figure). For the country overview, see chapter 4, page 24.


India continues to be one of the fastest growing major telecom markets in the world, with mobile growth being central to the expansion of the sector. Sweeping reforms introduced by successive Indian governments over the last decade have dramatically changed the nature of telecommunications in the country. The mobile sector has grown from around 10 million subscribers in 2002 to more than 150 million (including both GSM and CDMA services) by early 2007. The growth has been on the back of a mix of higher subscriber volumes, lower tariffs and falling handset prices. While GSM technology has remained the dominant technology platform in the market, CDMA shook the market up when it quickly grabbed a 23% market share. Despite the already substantial mobile subscriber base, this represented only around 14% of India’s one billion plus population. Clearly, the mobile industry is looking to continue its strong growth. The country’s telecom regulator, the TRAI, says that the rate of market expansion would increase with further regulatory and structural reform. For the country overview, see chapter 5, page 26.

The Maldives

The Maldives, with its relatively small population of 300,000, can rightly claim an efficient, up to date national telecommunications system, despite it being spread of a large archipelago of islands. As well as operating the fixed-line network, Dhiraagu, the country’s incumbent telco, has also been operating an extensive mobile service. Dhiraagu’s monopoly status was officially set to run out in 2008, but, in 2004, a second mobile licence was issued by the government. The new operator, Wataniya Telecom, launched its service in the second half of 2005. By March 2006, it had signed up 64,000 subscribers. In the meantime, Dhiraagu had also increased its subscriber base to 164,000, having managed to grow by 23% over the previous 12 months. With the increased competition, the overall market had reached an amazing 73% penetration by March 2007. For the country overview, see chapter 6, page 83.


Nepal is among the poorest and least developed countries in the world. Amid what has been an unsettled political climate that erupts as a major problem from time to time the country has been moving steadily towards a more liberalised telecom market. This included the incumbent telco losing its monopoly status in the market. By April 2006, over 170 operators had been authorised to provide a wide range of telecom services, including two for basic telephony and two for the all-important mobile telephone service. Mobile services are provided in the country by two operators - Nepal Telecom and newcomer Spice Nepal. With Spice providing some serious competition to the incumbent, the total mobile subscriber base had reached 600,000 by March 2006 (penetration 2%), after the market had expanded by 100% in 2005. This rate of expansion continued and by March 2007, there were 1.2 million mobile subscribers in the country. For the country overview, see chapter 7, page 86.


After a period in which the country slowly transitioned from one dominated by a regulated state-owned monopoly to a comparatively deregulated competitive structure, Pakistan’s telecom sector had finally begun moving and looked set for an era of phenomenal growth. Pakistan’s mobile sector, which had started to grow strongly over the last few years, has been continuing its rapid expansion. After growing by almost 170% in 2005 and 123% in 2006, the mobile subscriber base had reached over 48 million (30% penetration) by early 2007. The government’s reform plans were being progressively implemented and this is certainly starting to have some impact on the market. The country’s four mobile operators have been joined by two new operators - Warid Telecom and Telenor Pakistan - following a decision by the government to issue two additional mobile licences. Both these new operators became very active in the market. By end-2006, after less than two years operation, Telenor had 6.6 million subscribers and Warid Telecom was claiming 7.6 million. For the country overview, see chapter 8, page 89.

Sri Lanka's

Sri Lanka has been demonstrating considerable determination in its efforts to develop the country despite its ongoing political problems. With a modern progressive telecommunications sector high on the list, the sector looked to be well positioned for vigorous growth. The country’s mobile sector expanded by almost 60% in 2006 and by March 2007 mobile penetration was 30%. At the same time, the strong growth in mobile looks very much like it was set to continue. For the country overview, see chapter 9, page 104.

Data in this report is the latest available at the time of preparation and may not be for the current year.

Table of Contents

1.1Mobile market forecasts
1.1.1Notes on scenario forecasts
1.1.2Afghanistan forecasts – mobile market
1.1.3Nepal forecasts – mobile market
1.1.4Pakistan forecasts – mobile market
2.1Overview of Afghanistan’s mobile market
2.2Major mobile operators
2.2.4New mobile licences
2.2.5Third Generation (3G)
2.3Mobile voice services
2.3.1Satellite mobile
3.1Overview of Bangladesh’s mobile market
3.1.2Interconnection issues
3.2Mobile technologies
3.2.2Other services
3.3Major mobile operators
3.3.1CityCell (PBTL)
3.3.3Banglalink (formerly Sheba Telecom)
3.3.4Telekom Malaysia International Bangladesh/AkTel
3.3.5Teletalk (BTTB)
3.3.6Warid Telecom
3.4Mobile voice services
3.4.2Satellite mobile
3.5Mobile data services
3.5.1Short Message Service (SMS)
3.5.2Wireless Internet
3.5.3Mobile portal service
4.1Overview of Bhutan’s mobile market
4.1.1Mobile statistics
5.1Overview of India’s mobile market
5.1.1Market background
5.1.2Mobile statistics
5.1.3Mobile market segments
5.1.4Pricing and marketing strategies
5.2Regulatory issues
5.2.1New Telecommunications Policy – 1999 (NTP-99)
5.2.2Year 2007
5.2.3Year 2006
5.2.4Year 2005
5.2.5Year 2004
5.3Mobile technologies
5.3.1Overview of mobile technologies used in India
5.3.4Third Generation (3G) mobile
5.4Major mobile operators in India
5.4.1Market overview
5.4.2Mergers and acquisitions
5.4.4Subscriber statistics and market share
5.4.5Overview of major mobile operators
5.5Mobile voice services
5.5.2Satellite mobile
5.6Mobile data services
5.6.1Market overview
5.6.2Short Message Service (SMS)
5.6.3Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS)
5.6.4General Packet Radio Service (GPRS)
5.6.5Push-to-Talk over Cellular (PoC)
5.6.6Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless (BREW)
5.6.7Enhanced Data for GSM Evolution (EDGE)
5.6.8Mobile entertainment
5.6.11Mobile TV
5.7Mobile content
6.1Overview of Maldives’ mobile market
6.1.1Mobile statistics
6.2Major mobile operators
6.2.1Wataniya Telecom
7.1Overview of Nepal’s mobile market
7.1.1Mobile statistics
7.2Major mobile operators
7.2.1Nepal Telecom
7.2.2Spice Nepal Pvt Ltd (SNPL)
7.3Mobile voice services
7.3.1Satellite mobile
8.1Overview of Pakistan’s mobile market
8.1.1Mobile statistics
8.1.2Competitive market
8.1.3Single access number
8.1.4Calling Party Pays (CPP)
8.1.5Licensing in Azad Jammu and Kashmir
8.2Major mobile operators
8.2.2Pakcom (Instaphone)
8.2.3Mobilink (PCML)
8.2.4Ufone (PTCL)
8.2.5Warid Telecom
8.2.6Telenor Pakistan
8.3Mobile voice services
8.3.2Satellite mobile
8.4Mobile data services
8.4.1Short Message Service (SMS)
8.4.2Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS)
9.1Overview of Sri Lanka’s mobile market
9.1.1Mobile statistics
9.2Mobile technologies
9.2.1Third Generation (3G) mobile
9.3Major mobile operators
9.3.1Celltel Lanka
9.3.2Hutchison Lanka
9.3.4Dialog Telekom (MTN)
9.3.5Fifth mobile licence
9.4Mobile voice services
9.4.1Satellite mobile
Exhibit 1 – Mobile operators in Bangladesh – 2006
Exhibit 2 – CDMA 2G deployment in India – 2006
Exhibit 3 – CDMA 3G deployment in India – 2006

Table 1 – Forecast mobile subscriber growth in Afghanistan – lower forecast – 2005; 2010; 2015
Table 2 – Forecast mobile subscriber growth in Afghanistan – upper forecast – 2005; 2010; 2015
Table 3 – Forecast mobile subscriber growth in Nepal – lower forecast – 2006; 2010; 2015
Table 4 – Forecast mobile subscriber growth in Nepal – upper forecast – 2006; 2010; 2015
Table 5 – Forecast mobile subscriber growth in Pakistan – lower forecast – 2005; 2010; 2015
Table 6 – Forecast mobile subscriber growth in Pakistan – upper forecast – 2005; 2010; 2015
Table 7 – Mobile subscribers and annual change in Afghanistan – 2002 - 2006
Table 8 – Mobile statistics in Afghanistan – 2006
Table 9 – Mobile statistics in Bangladesh – 2006
Table 10 – Mobile operators, technology, subscribers and annual change in Bangladesh – September 2006
Table 11 – Mobile subscriber growth in Bangladesh – 1996 - 2006
Table 12 – Market share by operator in Bangladesh – September 2006
Table 13 – Pacific Bangladesh (PBTL) subscribers – 1999 - 2006
Table 14 – GrameenPhone subscribers – 1998 - 2006
Table 15 – Banglalink subscribers – 2002 - 2006
Table 16 – Teletalk (BTTB) subscribers – 2005 - 2006
Table 17 – Mobile statistics in Bhutan – March 2007
Table 18 – Mobile subscribers in Bhutan – 2004 - 2007
Table 19 – Mobile statistics in India – 2006
Table 20 – Mobile subscribers (GSM and CDMA) and annual growth in India – 2002 - 2006
Table 21 – GSM mobile subscribers and annual growth in India – 1997 - 2006
Table 22 – WLL technology-based subscribers in India – June 2006
Table 23 – Mobile services revenue in India – 1996 - 2007; 2010
Table 24 – Mobile ARPU (GSM and CDMA) and annual change in India – 2005 - 2006*
Table 25 – Mobile subscribers and market share by region/circle in India – 2006
Table 26 – GSM mobile subscribers by region/circle in India – 2004 - 2007
Table 27 – Total mobile subscribers (GSM & CDMA) per operator and market share in India – 2006
Table 28 – Mobile operators, subscribers and annual change in India – September 2006
Table 29 – GSM mobile operators – subscribers and market share per operator in India – 2006
Table 30 – CDMA mobile operators, subscribers and market share per operator in India – 2006
Table 31 – ARPU* for mobile subscribers by technology prepaid, postpaid and blended in India – 2006**
Table 32 – Mobile statistics in the Maldives – September 2006
Table 33 – Mobile subscribers in the Maldives – 1998 - 2006
Table 34 – Postpaid and prepaid subscribers in the Maldives – 2006
Table 35 – Mobile operators, subscribers and annual change in the Maldives – September 2006
Table 36 – Mobile statistics in Nepal – March 2007
Table 37 – Mobile operators, technology, subscribers and annual growth in Nepal – March 2007
Table 38 – Mobile subscribers, annual change and penetration in Nepal – 1999 - 2007
Table 39 – Mobile prepaid versus postpaid subscribers in Nepal – April 2007
Table 40 – Mobile statistics in Pakistan – September 2006
Table 41 – Mobile operators, technology, subscribers & annual growth in Pakistan – September 2006
Table 42 – Mobile subscribers in Pakistan – 1995 - 2006
Table 43 – Mobile operator market share – 2001; 2006
Table 44 – Mobile services revenue in Pakistan – 1998 - 2006
Table 45 – Mobile statistics in Sri Lanka – September 2006
Table 46 – Mobile subscribers in Sri Lanka – 1995 - 2006
Table 47 – Mobile operators, technology, subscribers & annual growth in Sri Lanka – September 2006
Table 48 – Mobile operator market shares in Sri Lanka – Sepember 2006

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Number of pages 133

Status Archived

Last updated 17 Oct 2007
Update History

Analyst: Stephen McNamara

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