A few days back, I found a revealing infographic on tele-density on India. I guess I found it on the Web pages of Business Line, a publication of The Hindu Group. Or was it the Mint? Never mind!
At the time of independence, we had less than a million (ten lakh) phone connections in India. Between 1947 and 1981, tele-density did not add up to much, given the poor infrastructure, red tape in allocation of telephone connection, and generally low business activity.
The number of connections increased by about 14 times between 1981-91, the decade when the PCO (public call office) Revolution took place, thanks to Sam Pitroda.
In the last decade of the last century, India deregulated the telecom sector from government control; private companies were allowed to invest in both basic (landline) and mobile telephony. This led to the emergence of Bharti Group, HFCL, Tata Telecom, and other Indian companies into the telecom sector.
Today even foreign companies can invest in the telecom sector; a foreign company, like Vodafone, is allowed to invest up to 74% of the capital in a mobile telephony company.
The first decade of the 21st century saw liberalized government policy (in terms of capital norms), increased competition, better technology and infrastructure have all contributed to lower tariffs. Gather this: in the initial days of the launch of mobile telephony, an outgoing or incoming mobile call cost Rs32 per minute. Now, India is said to have the lowest telecom tariffs in the world.
Today India has one of the largest mobile subscriber base in the world. A mobile phone is ubiquitous; everyone has one, like an opinion. Not bad for a country where a telephone connection was once a symbol of wealth and elite status in the society.