In what could come as a solace for telcos, mobile subscribers’ inclination to switch operators seems to have ebbed in April after hitting a peak in March this year. Data collated by the Indian telecom regulator show that mobile number portability (MNP) requests hit a peak at 47 lakh in March this year as against an average of 25 lakh in late 2011, only to climb down to around 40.1 lakh in April.
Although it is a bit early to predict if this marks a definitive reversal, the trend certainly indicates a temporary reprieve as customer switching adds to the customer acquisition costs for a service provider, costs which it hopes to plough back over a period of time through monthly subscriptions.
The TRAI report reveals as of April 2012, about 4.58 crore subscribers have submitted requests for porting their mobile numbers since MNP has been allowed.
Meanwhile, the total wireless mobile subscriber base has risen to 921.02 million with the addition of 1.85 million new mobile phone users in April.
As per TRAI data, Tata Tele continues to lead the private telcos losing subscriber and has lost around five lakh users in April. The operators have witnessed a see-saw in the client base since late last year, soon after the company said that it would offer one common brand with Tata DoCoMo cutting across the CDMA and GSM platforms (which meant Tata DoCoMo moves into the CDMA space and all existing Tata Indicom customers are to migrate to Tata DoCoMo).
Other private telcos who lost users or reported shutdown in operations include Etisalat (a late entrant in Indian telecom business and one of the key firms to be affected by the Supreme Court ruling to cancel all new 2G telecom licences over alleged scam), Loop and S Tel.
This was even as a few other telcos continued to see user addition in spite of an uncertain future in India. For instance, Uninor added 1.1 million new users in April, behind Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular.
Of the total wireless user base in India, around three-fourth happens to be active subscribers. Out of the total 921.02 million subscribers, 686.58 million were active on the date of Peak VLR (Visitor Location Register) for the month of April. The proportion of VLR subscribers is approximately 74.55 per cent of the total wireless subscriber base reported by the service providers.
Circle-wise, J&K has the highest proportion of VLR subscribers, followed by Assam and Madhya Pradesh, while Mumbai has the lowest proportion. Service provider-wise, Idea leads the tally, followed by Bharti.
India added 1.6 lakh new broadband subscribers in the month of April (as against 2.5 lakh new users added in March) to take the total user base of high speed Internet to 13.95 million, according to the latest report released by TRAI.
According to the telecom regulator, there has been 1.13 per cent growth in April over the previous month (March 2012) and 15.04 per cent growth over April 2011.
This shows the growth for broadband penetration in India, which sputtered in January and February this year only to surprise in March and has come back to its recent average of just over 1 per cent month-on-month growth.
However, this could be hiding another big statistics as consumers are increasingly using Internet on the go. Although Internet speed on handsets is yet to receive great reviews (despite 3G), mobile Internet could well be the game-changer for tech firms.
Broadband growth is critical to adoption of e-commerce and other Internet-related consumer services in India where companies have attracted large-scale interest from venture capital and private equity firms.
(Edited by Sanghamitra Mandal)