The Indian market for telecom equipment – from switches, routers and base station systems to microwave radios, optical fibre links and mobile handsets – was estimated at Rs 54,675 crore in 2009-10. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India reckons that just over 12 per cent of this demand was met through domestic value addition. The balance comprised imports, whether in final product form or as parts for local assembly. Moreover, the size of the market is projected to grow to Rs 108,096 crore in 2015-16 and Rs 170,091 crore by 2019-20. Much of it would be powered by the increased rollout of 3G mobile services in the immediate short-term, followed by the more advanced 4G wireless broadband networks.
That such demand can be overwhelmingly met through imports is neither a feasible nor a desirable proposition. It is, indeed, quite incredible how a country with the world's second largest telecom subscriber base of 900 million-plus (from a mere 40 million a decade ago) has not leveraged these numbers to build a robust manufacturing base at home.Never too late to start.