BSNL to add 60 million mobile subscribers in a year

With lot of fanfare, the IT Minister Maran in the presence of Karnataka Chief Minister and the former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister launched the scheme of 4 million lines immediately in each of the four regions (South, North, East and west) over the next quarter, and addition of 60 million new mobile connections in one year. The move was hailed not just in India but even elsewhere; Nortel, the telecom giant, that was late entrant to Indian telecom market, hailed it as the biggest order for Nortel ever; they even carry the Indian Telecom story in the front page of their web-site!

The IT Minister must be complimented for taking such a bold initiative.

The Indian consumer’s who was “starved” for telephone connection for decades, is “gulping” it in the past couple of years. I waited for 3 years for a landline connection at Kanpur in mid-eighties; I waited for a year in Bangalore in mid-nineties. It is a sea-change today that we can get a phone in flat one hour that too with multiple choice of service providers, handsets and billing plans. We have come a long way indeed!

India added about 30 million phones (all types) in over 100 years (till 2002), but adding 2 million a month these days; and, the Minister talking of 60 million in a year is commendable.

But one also has to face the reality; when ALL service providers are just adding 24 million a year currently, is the goal (however laudable) of BSNL alone targeting 60 Million realistic? BSNL had serious problem of managing their SIM card supply even a year back (with just 200,00 customers). Are they ready for such a huge jump?

A serious problem for public sector is the eternal vigilance by CVC and CAG (that often find fault will “silly” procedures unmindful of the challenges); Ministers come and go but the officials are stuck with such “silly” processes. One hopes that the powers that be address this important issue; the sooner the better, not just for BSNL but for ALL public sectors. Often CAG and CVC are used by politicians and bureaucrats to settle the score and punish in the process, honest and upright officers. This must stop at least in the 21st century!

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