New Delhi: Reliance Communications Ltd (R-Com) slipped to fourth in terms of total mobile users, after the company said it implemented a routine clean-up of its subscriber base, removing more than 10 million subscribers in September.

This led to a fall of more than six million telecom subscribers in September for India, after five months of a steady rise in its user base, monthly numbers released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Tuesday showed.

Reliance Communications has deactivated the services of around 10 million unprofitable, low-end subscribers at the lowest end of the ARPU (average revenue per user) range, who had not used their phones for over two months," a spokesperson for the Anil Ambani-promoted company said in an emailed statement. “This is in line with the industry practice and has no impact on customer experience or (the Company’s) revenues."

The fall in R-Com’s mobile subscriber base to 116.26 million users in September makes it the fourth largest mobile services provider in the country, allowing Idea Cellular Ltd to replace it at the third spot with 127.22 million mobile users.

“There may be some positive impact on the ARPU and minutes of usage but there is unlikely to be an impact on the rate per minute. It shows a clear shift of the telco towards reporting healthier KPIs (key performance indicators) from the earlier focus on the subscriber base," said a Mumbai-based telecom analyst with a multinational brokerage firm, who declined to be identified.

The overall fall in the nation’s total subscriber base was 6.31 million, a 0.7% drop from 906.18 million users in August to 899.86 million in September. The total user base includes fixed line subscribers as well as wireless or mobile subscribers.

The number of fixed line subscribers fell by about 170,000 to 29.28 million.

In terms of subscriber base, Bharti Airtel Ltd retained the top spot with 193.38 million mobile subscribers in September, followed by Vodafone India Ltd with 155.54 million users. In August, R-Com had 126.75 million subscribers and Idea 126.02 million.

Idea added 1.207 million users in September, the most by any telco during the month, followed by Vodafone that added 1.205 million and Bharti that added 1.16 million.

In terms of subscriber market share, Trai data showed that the top three GSM operators—Bharti (22.21%), Vodafone (17.87%) and Idea (14.61%)—held more than a 54% share of the market, with the remaining divided among 10 other operators, both regional and national. R-Com had a market share of 13.35% and state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd 11.24%.

The number of urban mobile subscribers fell 1.07% to 520.21 million during the month, and the number of rural subscribers fell 0.15% to 350.37 million, according to Trai’s data.

Mobile number portability requests, that crossed 100 million in August, rose to 102.49 million in September, while broadband subscriptions rose marginally to 15.36 million from 15.28 million in the previous month, Trai data showed.