Telecom industry back on the growth mode

By ZRG | Updated: Jun 28, 2013, 15:18 PM IST

Siddharth Tak /ZRG

Indian telecom industry is back on the growth mode after disconnecting several inactive users. Interestingly, after witnessing a fall for the eight consecutive months (between July 2012 and February 2013) the net monthly wireless additions registered an upswing in March 2013.

According to the data of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), total net monthly wireless additions rose by 6.14 millions in March 2013 on monthly basis. Even, experts believe that now operators have attained some sort of stability and net subscriber addition is expected to grow in the coming months.

In July 2012, it was for the first time when the net mobile subscriber additions declined by 20.61 million to 913.49 million as against a figure of 934.04 million in June 2012. The biggest hit was taken by Reliance Communications with subscriber base ebbing by 20.49 million. Furthermore, in August 2012, the decline of 5.13 million owed to deactivation of connections by Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea (the combined base of these three declined by 5.11 million).

Similarly, net mobile subscriber additions declined by 1.74 million, 2.39 million and 13.63 million in the month of September, October and November 2012 respectively. However, the highest decline of 25.88 million in net mobile subscriber additions came in the month of December 2012. The biggest loss in mobile user base came from Reliance Communications that lost 15.58 million users, followed by Vodafone with 3.28 million, Tata Teleservices (2.95 million), Aircel (1.97 million) and Bharti Airtel (1.7 million).

The total wireless subscriber user base has declined by 2.10 million to 862.62 million at the end of January 2013. Even in February 2013, mobile user base declined by 0.96 million. Hence, during the period of July 2012- February 2013, India’s total mobile user base declined by 72.44 million.

Explaining the reason behind the recent increase of net subscriber additions in the country, Kunal Bajaj, an independent telecom analyst, averred, “The earlier negative trend was witnessed as operators were churning out their inactive customers. However, as of now the cleanup efforts have been completed. Now, operators are attaining some sort of stability and therefore we are seeing some positive numbers owing to the addition of new subscribers.”

Another school of thought came from Mahesh Uppal, promoter and director, Com First (India), who opined, “Mobile phone usage has always been increasing but the number of sim card in circulation was temporary reducing because operators were abandoning inactive sim cards. Now, we are being able to see some growth in the net mobile subscriber additions in the country.”

Uppal’s thought got an endorsement from Rajan Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India, who asserted, “I think majority of the growth is coming from Circle B (which include Rajasthan, UP East and West) and Circle C. Previously these were the low penetration areas but now the growth is driven by these Circles.”

Referring to the Circle wise comparison, the Circle B (states include Punjab, Haryana, UP (E), Rajasthan etc.) witnessed the highest net additions of 2.71 million mobile subscribers in March 2013 as against February 2013. Circle B was followed by Circle A (Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Naidu) with 2.44 million, Metro Circle with 0.67 million and Circle C (Bihar, Orissa, Assam and other north east states) with 0.31 million.