Mumbai: Some established companies in the Indian telecom market are raising doubts over the practice of reporting subscriber numbers, especially by newer entrants.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, or Trai, seeks subscriber numbers from all telecom operators in the country. But this information is not open to independent audit.
The department of telecomunications, or DoT, has laid down guidelines for reporting subscriber numbers. It instructs telecom operators to discount subscribers added via SIM (subscriber identity module) cards distributed for testing, channel sales and employees for free from their registered user base.
DoT adds that an operator should stop counting a prepaid subscriber as its own after a period of 90 days or the expiration of the validity period and the duration for which unused talk time is carried forward, whichever is less.
For post-paid subscribers, the department insists that an operator discount a subscriber after waiting for 90 days of non-payment of dues.
The heads of two leading telecom operators, who didn’t want to be identified, said the department’s guidelines are open to circumvention.
This, they said, was done to inflate subscriber numbers and claim a higher valuation for the company, especially newer licensees.
Bharti Enterprises Ltd, the parent of Bharti Airtel Ltd, India’s biggest mobile-phone company by users, said it only reported the number of “active subscribers”—which it described as receiving or making at least one voice call a month.
“With the telecom industry adding 12-15 million subscribers every month, we welcome setting up of uniform guidelines in subscriber reporting for all telecom operators in the country,” it added.
Reliance Communications Ltd, which has been reporting record subscriber additions since its inception, said: “The guidelines and standards defined by the licensor are followed for reporting of subscriber numbers.”
While Idea Cellular Ltd and Tata Teleservices Ltd declined to comment for this story, no response has been received from Vodafone Essar Ltd.