An Overview


Telephone services in India begun in a small scale with the commissioning of a 50-line manual telephone exchange in 1882 in Kolkata. This was less than five years after the invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell. India had approx. 82,000 telephone connections at the time of independence (1947) and by 1984 the number of connections had slowly risen to 3.05 million. India's telecom network was notoriously unreliable and only available to a small section of households along with the corporate sector. The telecom sector was a government monopoly until 1994 when liberalisation gradually took place. Cellular service was launched in November 1995 in Kolkata.

Expanding Network

The Indian telecom industry has grown rapidly during the last few years but has witnessed a substantial fall in growth more recently. India has the third largest (based on the total number of fixed/mobile subscriber lines) telecom network in the world and the second largest mobile network with over 1.16 billion subscribers at the end of Feb 2017.


While the monthly mobile subscriber base is still growing in the millions, the number of landlines is gradually decreasing, currently at less than 25 million. Overall telecom subscriber penetration increased to 90 % at the end of 2016. The FDI cap in the telecom sector is currently 74 %. Smartphone sales are expected to grow to 130 mn units in 2016. Major brands sold include Huawei, Xiaomi, Samsung, Lenovo, Intex, Reliance Jio and Micromax. Around 80 million smartphones were manufactured in India in 2016.

Telecom Manufacturing

A growing number of telecom companies have set up manufacturing facilities for the production of mobile phones and other telecom equipment to cater to India's growing telecom market and exports too.

175 m mobile handsets worth around ₹ 900 bn were manufactured (though mostly merely assembled) in India in 2016/17.

Mobile Network Statistics

India's Largest Wireless Telecom Operators as on March 31, 2017
Operator Wireless Subscriber Base (millions)
Bharti Airtel 274
Vodafone 209
Reliance Communications 109*
Idea Cellular Ltd. 195
Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. 77*
Reliance Jio 72*
Tata Teleservices Ltd. 66*
Aircel / Dishnet 81*
Telewings 46*
* Mar 31 2015

Wireless Subscribers (in millions) in the Four Metros as on Dec 31, 2016 ¹
City TotalOperators
Delhi 50.9 Bharti Airtel, Reliance, Vodafone, Tata, Idea, Aircel, MTNL, Sistema and Reliance Jio
Mumbai 34.6 Bharti Airtel, Reliance, Vodafone, Tata, Idea, Aircel, MTNL and Reliance Jio
Kolkata 28.1 Bharti Airtel, Reliance, Vodafone, Tata, Idea, Aircel, Sistema and Reliance Jio
Chennai 11.5* Aircel Cellular, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar, BSNL, Reliance, Tata, Telenor and Reliance Jio
¹ Source: TRAI. Figures include CDMA, GSM and WLL(Fixed) connections. * Jul 31 2013


Currency: 1 USD equals approx. 67 Indian Rupees (₹)

Govt. Telecom Links

DOT - Department of Telecommunications
BSNL Telecom Network Statistics
BSNL - Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd.
TRAI - Telecom Regulatory Authority of India
VSNL - India's public sector overseas telecommunications provider


Indian Telecom News
Indian Bandwidth
VOICE & DATA (India)


Public Operators

BSNL Units
Calcutta Telephones (under BSNL)
Chennai Telephones (under BSNL)
MTNL - Mumbai and Delhi
MTNL Mumbai
MTNL Delhi

Private Operators

Tata Teleservices
Operates in Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu,Maharashtra
Bharti Tele-Ventures Ltd
Operates in Delhi, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
Reliance Infocomm
India's largest CDMA mobile operator with some 10 million subscribers
HFCL Infotel
HFCL Infotel operates in Punjab and Chandigarh


GSM Network Coverage >>
Tata Docomo
Sistema Shyam TeleServices Ltd.
Operates currently in Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and plans to cover all the circles by end-2010.
Reliance Communications
BSNL - Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd.
Provides cellular service in Delhi and Mumbai.
IDEA Cellular
Operates in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh (West) and Delhi.
Aircel Ltd.
Operates in Assam, North Eastern states, Orissa, West Bengal, Jammu & Kashmir, Tamil Nadu (incl. Chennai) and Puducheri.
Bharti Airtel
Provides mobile phone service in all the 23 circles of India.
Vodafone India
Provides mobile phone service in 16 circles.
Telenor India
Reliance Jio Infocomm


AUSPI - Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India
COAI - Cellular Operators' Association of India
IAMAI - Internet & Mobile Association of India


Nokia India
Motorola India
Bharti Telesoft
GSM India
Bharti Televentures
Comsat Max Ltd.
Subex Group
TCIL BellSouth Ltd.
Matrix Telecom Pvt. Ltd.
Hughes Escorts Communications Ltd.
Himachal Futuristic Communications Ltd.
C-DOT (Centre for Development of Telematics)
Indian Telephone Industries
Telephone Cables Ltd.
Shyam Telecom Ltd.