Subscriber additions by India’s top mobile service providers bounced back in August after a slump in the previous month.

Bharti Airtel Ltd, Vodafone India Ltd and Idea Cellular Ltd reported a cumulative increase of 1.5 million, compared with 0.17 million in July.

Subscriber additions of the top three firms are still a far cry, compared with the monthly average of 2.9 million subscribers added during the April-June period. But this is partly because of a decline in the subscriber numbers of Vodafone for the second consecutive month. Bharti and Idea reported an increase of 1.59 million in August and 0.78 million in July, compared with an average monthly addition of 2.03 million during the June quarter.

Still, even after excluding Vodafone’s numbers, there is a clear decline in subscriber additions. In addition, analysts at Edelweiss Securities Ltd point out that Aircel’s subscriber additions were robust for the second consecutive month, indicating increasing competition in certain service areas. Aircel’s subscriber additions in the last two months were the highest among all companies offering services on the GSM technology platform. Among large companies, Bharti has outpaced both Vodafone and Idea in the past three months.

Having said this, the financial results of telecom companies in the June quarter showed that even though subscriber growth wasn’t high, volume growth measured by minutes carried on mobile networks was still decent. More importantly, it came on the back of increasing tariffs. While this trend should continue by and large, signs of competition in some circles suggest that one can’t expect the same level of revenue and profit growth going forward.

Earlier this month, India’s telecom regulator recommended a cut in the base price for spectrum auctions, as well as a reduction in annual spectrum usage charges to 3% of gross revenue. The latter could lead to huge savings as the current system includes slab-wise rates going up to 8% of gross revenue. It also addresses concerns about a concessional usage fee for Reliance Jio Infocomm.

In this backdrop, it’s not surprising that shares of Bharti have been among the biggest beneficiaries of the recent rally in large-cap stocks. Shares of Idea have lagged primarily because of already high valuations.

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