The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Calcutta cellular market rises from slumber

Calcutta, Nov 16: After more than three months of stagnation, Calcutta’s cellular market is poised for growth not only in numbers but also for a larger share of the country’s cellular pie.

The October figures from Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) show that the city has marginally increased its share from 4.5 per cent during the July-September period this year to 4.57 per cent in October. According to a study by Merrill Lynch, Calcutta increased its share in the cellular pie from 4.1 per cent in July 2001 to 4.5 per cent in July this year.

Bharti Mobitel registered 1,67,728 subscribers in October as against 1,54,482 in September, while Hutchison’s subscriber base grew from 21,8901 in September to 2,31,719 in October. The third operator BSNL added only 49 subscribers to its September total of 11,104.

This rise in subscriber base spells good news for operators. With COAI figures for September showing that the market remained stagnant since then with only 3,84,487 subscribers in the city as against the total base of 85,31,382 across the country, there was reason for the two major operators to worry. Especially, since Calcutta has the lowest tariff structure among the four metros. Pre-paid rates at Rs 2.25 per minute is higher only than Mumbai, which is at Rs 1.49 per minute.

Explaining the reason for the slow growth, industry sources say, “Both operators shied from investing in building the infrastructure for good service. The major concerns of distribution, network, product and customer service have only recently been addressed.”

“The brands did not evoke any positive feeling among the customer and the product offered did not convert into value for money. BSNL as a third operator, also failed to build the confidence of the customer,” add sources. Another added worry is the low penetration of mobile users in the city. Calcutta has a mere 2.5 per cent penetration as against 7 or 8 per cent in major metro cities.

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