Decline in Mobile Subscriber Base in March Not Worrisome: COAI

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Industry body COAI said on Wednesday that not too much should be read into the drop in mobile subscriber numbers for March, as the reduced numbers are a result of the consolidation of multiple, unused SIMs and weeding out of low-usage connections by operators. The comments come a day after data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) showed that the country's total wireless subscribers fell to 1,161.8 million as on March 31, 2019, shedding 21.87 million users over the previous month. The overall teledensity in India declined to 90.11 at the end of March, from 91.86 in February.

The mobile subscriber base of Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel shrunk by nearly 14.5 million and 15.1 million, respectively, as of March over the previous month, while Reliance Jio added 9.4 million users during the period.

Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI) Director General, Rajan Mathews attributed the fall to a combination of factors such as subscribers with multiple SIMs making a decision to move onto one mobile number.

Mathews further said that with the rollout of 'minimum recharge plans' by operators, many of the low-usage customers might have decided not to continue with multiple connections. Also, the requirement of recharging within a set period to keep the number active may have led to discontinuation of connections, he added.

"It is not worrisome, because of those factors. The improvement in revenue and increase in average revenue per user (ARPU) in future will confirm this," Mathews told PTI.

According to Trai, the wireless subscriber base of Vodafone Idea at the end of March 2019 was 394.8 million. Bharti Airtel's mobile subscriber base was 325.1 million, and that of rival Reliance Jio was 306.7 million as on March 2019.

"Total wireless subscribers declined from 1,183.68 million at the end of February to 1,161.81 million at the end of March, thereby registering a monthly decline rate of 1.85 per cent," Trai report released on Tuesday had said.

The wireless subscription in urban areas declined to 650.49 million at the end of March from 656.57 million in February-end, and rural user base also plunged to 511.32 million from 527.11 million during the said period.

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