Prime minister Manmohan Singh today launched state-run Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd's (MTNL) third generation (3G) service, called 'Jaadu' or magic, giving the Indian mobile phone user access to a range of multiple utilities.
"I congratulate MTNL and the communications minister for launching the 3G service," the prime minister said.
While MTNL rolled out its 3G services in the national capital, another state-run telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) will launch them in Chennai next month.
Manmohan Singh said Indian mobile telephone operators signed up a record number of over 10 million users in October and at the current rate of growth, the total telecom subscriber base should reach 700 million by the year 2012 (covering nearly 70 per cent of the country's population), with about 650 million mobile users and 50 million landlines.
The department of telecom has fixed a target of 500 million telephone connections by 2010 and 750 million by 2012. Currently, the country's telecom user base is at 373 million, including November figures.
"Competition has to be the major propeller of the Indian economy and it has to be a sustainable one. At the same time, recent global events have also shown that self-interest involving means of progress is not always the same as the needs of public interest,'' the PM said while launching the service.
"Therefore, effective, objective, impartial regulation has to be an integral part of all these infrastructure sectors which have been thrown open to these communication both by domestic and international investors," he said.
Referring to last month's Mumbai terrorist strikes, he noted that modern communication technology and the powerful instruments in the hands of anti-social elements like terrorists can also be a cause of concern.
"So, it is very important that there should be effective cooperation and coordination between the agencies whose responsibility it is to safeguard security efforts and the producers and all those who are in the industry," he said.
He said the introduction of mobile number portability (MNP) while enabling subscribers to change their operators while retaining their number, will also lead operators to better their services to retain their customers.
"The possibility of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) is also being considered," he said.
"I understand that the telecom sector has started experimenting with mobile payments under the guidelines issued by the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) and soon mobile banking will also be a reality in our country," he said.
The telecom sector, he said, is one of our success stories and has contributed immensely to the growth of our economy. The growth of cellular mobile services is leading the telecom revolution in our country.
Communications and IT Minister A Raja, also present on the launch event here, made a video call from his handset, demonstrating the capabilities of 3G services.