Mature market telecom operators can learn from many of their fellow service providers in emerging markets. Recognizing that contexts differ – and they certainly do – there is still a sharp contrast in approaches to their markets. Ellen Daley and I just returned from India where we met with Indian telecom operators and services firms, and conducted an interactive session with telecom product and service providers – Forrester TelecomNext 2010. Both were an opportunity for us to listen and learn as well as share our observations on the industry.
With well over 500 million subscribers and a growth rate of more than 11% a quarter in 2009, the Indian mobile market is certainly attractive. But, Indian telecom operators face a tough competitive environment with some “circles” having upwards of a half dozen or more service providers (there are 23 telecom regions in India, known as “circles”), and the overall market packed with thirteen competitors. ARPUs are low and shrinking, with an average of about $2/month in March 2010. And, the price tag for 3G licenses in India added additional pain, with some vendors paying almost $3 billion in the spectrum auction. High costs and low revenues do not make for an easy road ahead.