The all-India wireless subscribers base stood at around 584 million in March with monthly subscriber accretions at an all-time high of around 20.3 million. Among the top operators, Vodafone Essar Ltdposted record addition of around 3.6 million (up 17.6% sequentially), followed by Bharti Airtel Ltd and Reliance Communications Ltd at around three million each (up around 3% and around 7% sequentially, respectively). After an impressive start in December, Uninor additions declined for the second month in a row and fell below the one million mark to around 0.7 million. S Tel Pvt. Ltdadditions improved 37% sequentially to around 290,000. Two new operators, Videocon Telecommunications Ltd and Etisalat DB, reported their subscribers for March, though their subscriber?base?is?not yet material.
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Tata Docomo, which had been leading industry additions for nearly two quarters in a row, added around 2.8 million subscribers, followed by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) at around 2.7 million. Net additions for top operators are equalizing as tariff plans across operators are converging.
Sharp competitive intensity over the past few quarters coupled with new launches has led to a material shift in subscriber market share for top operators. Among the gainers, Tata Docomo’s market share improved 230 basis points (bps) year-on-year (y-o-y) followed by Aircel Ltd at 160 bps y-o-y. Subscriber market share declined for Bharti (213 bps), BSNL (142 bps), and Reliance Communications (102 bps).
Two new operators, Videocon and Etisalat, launched their services in March. Videocon holds a pan-India unified access service (UAS) licence, while Etisalat holds UAS licence for 15 circles. Videocon Telecom commenced operations in two circles of Tamil Nadu and Haryana, while Etisalat reported subscribers for nine circles of Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh (east) and Rajasthan.
Category A and B circles continue to dominate subscriber additions, adding around 15.3 million subscribers, i.e., around 76% of industry additions. The industry wireline subscriber base continues to fall with subscriber attrition of around 97,000 in March. Wireline subscribers of incumbents, BSNL and Mahanagar Telecom Nigam Ltd continued to fall, while subscriber base of private operators (excluding MTS) grew at a 0.4-3.0% sequentially.
Graphics by Yogesh Kumar / Mint