Home >Industry >Telecom >India’s telephone subscriber base fell to 1.17 billion in December quarter

New Delhi: India’s overall telephone subscribers base declined to 1.17 billion in October-December from 1.19 billion a quarter ago, registering a fall of 1.9%, according to data released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Tuesday. The decline in the country’s overall subscriber base was driven by both urban and rural areas.

The country’s total wireless subscriber base also declined to 1.15 billion in October-December from 1.17 billion in the last quarter, recording a contraction of 1.9% quarter-on-quarter. On a year-on-year (YoY) basis, wireless subscriptions decreased 2.09% during the December quarter, Trai said.

“Out of the total subscription, the share of rural subscription increased from 43.28% at the end of Sep-19 to 43.50% at the end of Dec-19," Trai said in a statement.

However, total internet subscribers increased to 0.72 billion in the December quarter, from 0.69 billion at the end of July-September, registering a quarterly growth of 4.53%. TRAI said of the total internet users as of end of December, the number of wired internet subscribers were 22.39 million, while the number of wireless users stood at over 696 million.

Broadband internet subscriber base increased by 5.8% to 0.66 million during October-December, from 0.62 million at the end of the previous quarter.

While Q3 reported a dip in wireless subscriber numbers, according to Trai’s Q3 financial report, industry revenues were the highest in eight quarters during 2019 October- December led by a number of factors.

Reliance Jio mobile phone customers also needed to buy top-up vouchers to make outgoing voice calls to any non-Jio mobile number like that of Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea. Following this, in early December, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Jio increased their bundled prepaid tariffs by around 15-47%. This was the first tariff hike in the cash-strapped industry since September 2016 when Jio was launched with its free services. The telcos also reported moderation of broadband subscription in December following the tariff hikes.

“RJio added 0.1 million monthly broadband (MBB) subscribers in December (5.6 million in November 2019) Airtel added 0.5 million monthly broadband (MBB) subscribers in December (down from 7.1 mn added in November). The steep moderation in RJio and Airtel's addition rate could be due to tariff hike in December," according to an Axis Securities report following Trai’s December subscription numbers.

During Q4 results, Jio management had said that the October tariff hikes helped them lose almost 22 million heavy voice call users in five months. Further, Vodafone Idea which lost 36.41 million subscribers in November itself had reduced the time period of recording active subscriber from 120 days to 90 days.

“ Jio’s class B and C circles (higher rural proportion) fared better, most likely due to the Jio Phone offer in Q3. Overall industry revenue growth of 12% YoY and 8.5% QoQ was the strongest in a long time on the back of Jio charging for IUC from October," noted a report by IIFL Securities.

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