Rajan Mathews, Cellular Operators Association of India director general, has a tough job, and will highlight some of the reasons why when he delivers a keynote at the upcoming Spectrum Futures conference in Singapore, Oct. 19 to 21, 2016. 

COAI represents Indian mobile operators recently accused by a Telecom Regulatory Authority of India official as a “cartel” that is “interested in profiteering at the expense of consumers,” said  Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi.

“This is a cartel of four-five players in a country of a billion,” Rohatgi said. “They earn huge revenues and couldn’t be bothered about consumer satisfaction.”

Ignore for the moment the realities of the Indian market, where a typical customer account represents just $2 a month in revenue.

Mobile operator infrastructure costs some 30 percent more than global averages, says Rajan Mathews, Cellular Operators Association of India director general.

That is not all. Spectrum prices range from 30 percent to 35 percent higher than global averages as well.

And Indian mobile operators labor with less spectrum. “Every mobile operator in India has, on average, 12 MHz to 15 MHz of spectrum,” said Mathews. “Globally, every operator has 45 MHz to 50 MHz.”

Then there are taxes of various types, including spectrum taxes, though some relief recently has been gotten, which is helpful.

As always, there are battles between service providers building their models on licensed spectrum, and others who want greater reliance on license exempt spectrum.

Those decisions obviously affect both business models and the degree of competition in Internet access and other markets.

Availability of unlicensed frequencies also affect spectrum values and service provider choices about access network deployments.

All of that in turn affects the pace of Internet access investments across India.