Vital Notes: History of Telecommunication in India & Latest Figures on Teledensity


  1. Indian Telecommunication industry is the third largest telecommunication network in the world and the second largest in terms of number of wireless connections.
  2. In 1850, the first experimental electric telegraph Line was started between Kolkata and Diamond Harbor.
  3. In 1851, it was opened for the British East India Company. The Posts and Telegraphs department occupied a small corner of the Public Works Department,at that time.
  4. Construction of 4,000 miles (6,400 km) of telegraph lines connecting Kolkata (Calcutta) and Peshawar in the north via Agra, Mumbai (Bombay) through Sindwa Ghats, and Chennai in the south, as well as Ootacamund and Bangalore was started in November 1853.
  5. Dr. William O’Shaughnessy, who pioneered telegraph and telephone in India, belonged to the Public Works Department. He tried his level best for the development of telecom through out this period.
  6. A separate department was opened in 1854 when telegraph facilities were opened to the public.
  7. In 1880, two telephone companies namely The Oriental Telephone Company Ltd. and The Anglo-Indian Telephone Company Ltd. approached the Government of India to establish telephone exchanges in India. The permission was refused on the grounds that the establishment of telephones was a Government monopoly and that the Government itself would undertake the work.
  8. By 1881, the Government changed its earlier decision and a licence was granted to the Oriental Telephone Company Limited of England for opening telephone exchanges at Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai (Madras) and Ahmedabad.
  9. On 28 January 1882, Major E. Baring, Member of the Governor General of India’s Council declared open the Telephone Exchange in Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai. The exchange at Kolkata named “Central Exchange” was opened at third floor of the building at 7, Council House Street. The Central Telephone Exchange had 93 number of subscribers.
  10. Bombay also witnessed the opening of Telephone Exchange in 1882.
  11. First Central Battery of telephones introduced in Kanpur in 1907.
  12. First Automatic Exchange installed in Shimla in 1913-1914.
  13. Radio-telegraph system between the UK and India, with beam stations at Khadki and Daund, inaugurated by Lord Irwin by exchanging greetings with the King of England on 23 July 1927.
  14. Radiotelephone system inaugurated between the UK and India in 1933.
  15. First subscriber trunk dialing route commissioned between Kanpur and Lucknow in 1960.
  16. First PCM system commissioned between Mumbai City and Andheri telephone exchanges in 1975
  17. First digital microwave junction introduced in 1976.
  18. First optical fibre system for local junction commissioned at Pune in 1979.
  19. First satellite earth station for domestic communications established at Secunderabad, A.P. 1980.
  20. First analog Stored Program Control exchange for trunk lines commissioned at Mumbai in 1983.
  21. C-DOT established for indigenous development and production of digital exchanges in 1984.
  22. First mobile telephone service started on non-commercial basis in Delhi 1985.
  23. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India TRAI was established by the Government of India Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 in 1997 as independent regulator to regulate the telecommunications business in India.
  24. The Telecom Commission was set up by the Government of India vide Notification dated 11th April, 1989 with administrative and financial powers of the Government of India to deal with various aspects of Telecommunications.
  25. National Telecommunication Policy was announced on March 26, 1999. This policy came into force on April 1,1999. With this the telecommunication policy of 1994 came to an end. Participation of the private sector was emphasized in this policy.
  26. Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. formed in October, 2000, is World’s 7th largest Telecommunications Company providing comprehensive range of telecom services in India: Wireline, CDMA mobile, GSM Mobile, Internet, Broadband, Carrier service, MPLS-VPN, VSAT, VoIP services, IN Services etc. Presently it is one of the largest & leading public sector unit in India.
  27. National Long Distance Service NLD was opened from August 13, 2002
  28. The National Internet Backbone of BSNL consists of 432 Point of Presence( POP) that gives it the capability of transporting IP traffic from every hook and corner of the country. This network provides internet services to more than 1 million dial-up customers including about 3.5 lakh customers on CLI basis.
  29. The guidelines for Unified Access Service License regime were issued on November 11, 2003.
  30. India is currently under the Calling Party Pays regime which was implemented in 2001 after being presented by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) after first being presented in their second consultation paper on Telecom Pricing in 1998. India switched to this regime to be in line with what was seen as a ‘global practice’ because 90% of the world’s telecom regimes are on CPP.
  31. The Universal Service Support Policy came into effect from 01.04.2002. The guidelines for universal service support policy were issued by DoT and were placed on the DoT website on 27th March 2002. Subsequently, the Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Act, 2003 giving statutory status to the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) was passed in December 2003. The Fund is to be utilized exclusively for meeting the Universal Service Obligation by providing access to telegraph services to people in the rural and remote areas at affordable and reasonable prices. The USO Fund was established with the fundamental objective of providing access to ‘basic’ telegraph services.
  32. Subsequently, an Act has been passed on 29.12.2006 as the Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Act 2006 to amend the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 to enable provision of all types of telegraph services.
  33. Private telephone operators were allowed to carry international voice traffic (ISD calls) from the country with the Government announcement. Thus state-owned incumbent, Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL), ceased to be a monopoly with effect from April 1, 2002.
  34. Broadband policy was announced on October 14, 2004.
  35. In 2008 there was a wide gap between the Urban teledensity and rural teledensity. While Urban teledensity was 74.33 % it was 11.18 % in rural areas.
  36. The total number of telephones in the country crossed the 100 million mark in April 2005 and the total numbers of telephone subscribers have reached 218.05 million at the end of May 2007 as compared to 211.76 million in April 2007.

  • Image: Gregory Szarkiewicz /
  • Latest Figures
  1. Teledensity in India was 25.31% in February 2008. A target was set to achieve 500 million, 40% of population by 2010.
  2. The number of telephone subscribers in India increased to 509.03 Million at the end of September-09 from 494.07 Million in August-2009, thereby registering a growth rate of 3.03%.
  3. According to the monthly summary of TRAI, the overall Tele-density in India has reached 43.50. Thus set target of 500 million telephones by the end of 2010 has already been achieved by September 2009 itself.
  4. The Wireless subscriber base which includes GSM, CDMA & FWP increased from 456.74 Million in August-2009 to 471.73 Million at the end of September-09 registering a growth rate of 3.28%. Wireless Tele-density stands at 40.31.
  5. The Wireline subscriber base continued to decline from 37.33 Million in August-2009 to 37.31 Million at the end of Septembert-09. This decline is mainly on account of reduction in the Wireline subscriber base of BSNL/MTNL, which lost 0.06 Million subscribers in the month of September-09. These two PSU operators hold 85.67% of the Wireline market share.
  6. Overall Wireline teledensity stands at 3.19. The Total Broadband (¡Ý 256 Kbps download) subscriber base has increased from 6.98 million in August-09 to 7.22 million in September-09, thereby showing a growth of 3.29 %.

Info Sources: BSNL Portal, Press Information Bureau, wikipedia and Department of Telecommunications


  • Anonymous

    gud job….

  • swathi

    thank yu sir. helpful

  • satyam

    very interesting & informative