Country adds 20 million mobile users in March

The wireless subscriber base has increased by 3.6% from its February user base of 564.02 million

With the addition of 20 million new users in March, the highest ever this year, the mobile subscriber base in the country has jumped to 584.32 million customers, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said today, reports PTI.

The wireless subscriber base increased by 3.6% from its February user base of 564.02 million, TRAI said in a statement.

With this addition, the total number of telephone subscribers (wireless and wire-line) in India increased to 621.28 million at the end of March 2010, from 600.98 million in February 2010.

The number of users in the wire-line segment remained unchanged at 36.96 million, as there was no net addition to fixed line subscriptions, which have been witnessed negative to flat growth for quite sometime now.

With operators slashing tariffs further and new telecom players offering innovative schemes, the total telecom subscriber base registered a growth of 3.38% in March.

The maximum new additions for operators came from the ‘Circle B’ and ‘C’ cities, indicating that markets in the metros are saturating.

With this, the overall tele-density in India has touched 52.74, which indicates that 53 out of every 100 people in India own a telephone connection (wireless or wire-line). The wireless tele-density stands at 49.60.

In the wireless segment, Vodafone was able to add the maximum number of new users to its network, followed by Reliance Communications and Bharti Airtel.

Vodafone trumped the country’s largest operator, Bharti Airtel, by adding 3.6 million subscribers in March, taking its total number of users to 100 million. In comparison, Bharti Airtel added 3 million users to expand its subscriber base to 127.6 million, data showed.

However, Bharti Airtel remained the leader with a 21.84% share of the market at the end of March, followed by Reliance Communications with a 17.53% share and Vodafone with a 17.26% share, TRAI said.

While the subscriber base in the wireless segment increased from 564.02 million in February, the number of users in the wire-line segment remained unchanged at 36.96 million, the statement added.

In the wire-line segment, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd remained the biggest player, holding a 75.31% market share as on 31 March 2010, followed by State-run MTNL.

The broadband subscriber base increased from 8.59 million in February to 8.75 million in March 2010, a growth of around 2%.


Duty hike on iron ore lumps

Duties on iron ore fines to remain unchanged; hike aimed at increasing availability of the mineral in the domestic market

Commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma today said that there will be a minor increase in the export duty on iron ore lumps to discourage shipments, though duties on iron ore fines will remain unchanged, reports PTI.

“There will be no increase in the export duty on iron ore fines, but there will be a marginal increase in the export duty on lumps, which we are in agreement (with other ministries),” Mr Sharma told reporters.

Indian steel makers use iron ore lumps to produce steel. Iron ore fines are primarily exported to countries like China.

The duty hike on iron ore lumps will increase availability of this mineral in the domestic market. At present, iron ore is priced in the range of $120-$160 per tonne, up 90% from a year ago, putting input cost pressure on steel companies.

The government at present levies an export duty of 10% on iron ore lumps and 5% on iron ore fines.

Sources said that the export duty on iron ore lumps could go up by another 5%, but government officials would not confirm this.

Last week, senior officials from the steel, mines, commerce and finance ministries discussed the issue of raising the export duty on these different types of iron ore.

Mr Sharma further said mining itself is an industry which is carried out in backward and tribal regions of the country. The industry provides jobs to millions of people.

“So, before taking any decision on increasing export duty, we should take a wholesome view,” he added.

The steel ministry had last month written to prime minister Manmohan Singh and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, seeking a two-fold hike in the present duty structure. The ministry wants to discourage outward dispatches as it is of the view that the vital raw material for steel making should be retained for domestic consumption.

In 2008-09, iron ore exports amounted to 106 million tonnes, about 85% of which were fines.


Flying the toxic skies-I

Passengers are supposed to get clean and fresh air during a fight. So why is the air we breathe onboard airplanes so bad?

To really understand the quality of air you breathe inside that slim aluminium tube called an airplane, you don’t have to do much—you just have to ask the young people riding shotgun on the ladders, those who open the aircraft door. Feedback received ranges from stale and smelly to outright un-breathable and unsanitary. Every which way, the blast of what comes out from inside the airplane is so terrible, that those on duty outside instinctively turn away from it as the door is opened.
That this has only become worse over the last few decades is also a well-known secret. Especially when landing into extremely hot or cold ambient temperatures at airports. If the temperatures outside are comfortable, then to some extent, the fresh air permitted inside while taxiing would neutralise matters before doors were opened.
 But why is the air onboard airplanes so bad to begin with? Aren’t we supposed to be getting fresh and clean air, after all, there are billions of cubic metres of absolutely pure air right outside the portholes, all so carefully brought to a comfortable temperature and pressure over sea level  for us. As the announcement usually states. Lately, adept flyers may have noticed that airlines sometimes drop the information on temperature and cabin pressure in the  announcement, so much temperature outside and so much height over sea level inside, because some parts of it would worry the passengers.
Truth is, even the pilots don’t believe what they have to say about the air onboard anymore. More than a few deaths onboard as well as medical episodes being linked to the air onboard airplanes have made them very, very careful. 
What’s more worrying, however, is what the aviation industry has quietly done with the most important element of flying as a passenger, specifically, the air we breathe onboard. They simply let it go bad. In the name of fuel economy and higher profits, this is what happened with many “new generation” aircraft providing excellent fuel-efficient engines, thus proving once again that all new technology is not necessarily good for humanity.
Here’s what the new changes are:
They reduced the air pressure inside the airplane, moving up from 4,000 to 6,000 to around 8,000 and now often as high as 10,000 feet above Mean Sea Level (MSL), equivalent. Outside, at 35,000-40,000 feet above MSL, the air is much thinner, of course, and requires to be compressed. So, the lesser they need to compress, the lesser fuel they burn. Air pressure onboard can always be measured inside cabins with some very simple equipment, even easier now with people carrying portable computers to measure and keep records.
2) They simply did away with letting any really fresh cold air into the airplane at high altitudes, since that would also require fuel to heat. Instead, they now use air drawn through the hot engines (known as ‘bleed’, they can’t even get to calling it ‘air’ themselves), which is then mixed with the used air inside, forced through filters and cleaners, and then pumped right back into the cabin again. Air quality onboard can also be measured inside with some very simple equipment, and records kept on portable computers.
This mixture of stale air and ‘bleed’ is usually let into the aircraft in proportions that are pre-set by the airline and aircraft manufacturer, and the only parameter that is important to them, is fuel-cost saving. Even the least amount of fresh air allowed inside an aircraft flying at a high altitude would upset these fine calculations. So, typically, the pilot onboard has no say in adjusting these to try to improve air quality.
Somehow, for cockpit crew, the problem is solved by providing them with pure and fresh oxygen, if required. But that too can have disastrous results, as the yet unexplained crash of the Helios Boeing 737 Flight ZU-522, into a mountain in Greece, remains a mystery.
The filters and cleaners have to tackle a lot. In addition to used air, they also have to clean traces of a vast variety of chemicals and fuels, coming out of the jet engines. Imagine, then, for a moment that 100 of you are in a sealed air-con BEST bus, and that the air you breathe inside is a mix of the stale air and the air coming out of the exhaust, purified for you by expensive filters, mostly optional extras. Placed right next to the engine because, that’s right, it would save cost.
So now you are talking about filters and cleaners which need to be replaced very often. Since they cost a lot. Thousands of dollars, typically, and unlike your home air-conditioner filters—they can’t just be washed and re-installed. So, in this day and age of cost saving, and with nobody really watching, the filters and cleaners go on. For a long time.

And people keep falling sick. Or worse.
Till finally, some aviation crew, both cockpit and cabin, who get impacted the most because they are flying day in and day out—take the system head-on. In the UK, the US and Australia. And now they have some court judgements in their favour too.
More on toxic aviation air, soon, but meanwhile—please let us know —what are your experiences with air quality onboard airplanes, especially on long flights?
(This is the first part of a three-part series)



P Jayaram

6 years ago

Thanks Mr Malik. Before 26/11, when security was not that high, i have had opportunities to be cockpit of many flights. Once i even flew from France to India popping in and out of cockpit many times. At no time have i seen the crew using oxygen. There may be some pilots who regularly use oxygen, probably getting a high. Who knows? One simple way of checking this point is to see how often the oxygen cylinder gets replaced during maintenance. I am certain this will not be as high as you think.

If you study the aircraft aircon system then you will realise the various twisted facts presented. The bleed is nothing but outside air (as referred by you) which is compressed. I am still confused as to how any chemicals etc can come from the enignes into the aircon system. The filters you talk about have to be there and get replaced at fixed periods. Agreed, stale air gets mixed and you must appreciate this is a calculated compromise which has withstood years of service experience. If in future statistics or other data indicate a need for change i am sure it will be tackled by the regulatory authorities.

B787. i think is called the "Dreamliner" and for the present is very much delayed and still a dream. Maybe the designers have overreached and the made the product heavy, expensive and not economical to operate. An aircraft has to safe, comfortable and economical too.

V Malik

6 years ago

Dear P. Jayaram, thank you for your comments, appreciate your concerns and taking time out. Shall address the points being raised by you.
a) Pilots are known to use oxygen while in the cockpit, while it is only for emergency use in the passenger cabin. In addition, the rules on Minimum Equipment for pax cabin and cockpit are different, as far as air in the airplane goes.

b) I tried to keep the article simple, aimed more at the general public, but for specific technical debates - I am available and can provide the qualifications required on the subject of air quality and health.

c) Aircraft are being designed to overcome these issues, specific case in point being the B-787.


P Jayaram

6 years ago

Quite worrying the way it is presented. Is it really that dangerous. Loose terms are used and lots of facts are twisted beyond recognition. Yes, the article is full of "hot air". For starters i do not know why the term "exhaust" is used erroneously. The outside air has to be compressed to be used in the cabin, if the engine does not supply then what else can do the job? Pilots using oxygen, come on, have a heart. You have seen so many movies about pilots. Can you recount any one wherein the pilot is shown using oxygen that too continuously for hours on end. Oxygen is available for both passengers and pilots, but only for emergencies and that too not for use over long periods. If an aircraft were to be designed to the requirements of the author then it will be so expensive, who will be flying in them?

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