The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recently released the performance indicator report (PIR) for the October-December 2018 quarter. The report, prepared on the basis of information provided by service providers, highlights the growth trends in the telecom sector during this period.

According to the report, the country’s telecom subscriber base (wireless and wireline) increased from 1,191.4 million as of end September 2018 to 1,197.87 million as of end December 2018, registering a growth of 0.54 per cent over the previous quarter. Meanwhile, the subscriber base reflected a year-on-year growth of 0.6 per cent over the same quarter in 2017. The overall teledensity increased from 91.2 per cent as of September 30, 2018 to 91.45 per cent as of December 31, 2018.

After the completion of the Vodafone and Idea merger in September 2018, Vodafone Idea Limited emerged as the leader with 419.03 million subscribers as of December 31, 2018, followed by Bharti Airtel (344.3 million) and Reliance Jio (280.12 million). With regard to net additions during the quarter, Jio recorded the highest growth with 27.87 million additions followed by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) with 1.12 million additions. All other operators witnessed negative growth in their subscriber base during the quarter.

Telecom subscription in urban areas declined marginally from 666.64 million as of end September 2018 to 666.28 million as of end December 2018, while urban teledensity declined from 160.79 per cent to 159.98 per cent. The rural telecom subscriber base increased from 524.76 million in September 2018 to 531.59 million in December 2018, resulting in an increase in rural teledensity from 58.85 per cent to 59.5 per cent. The share of rural subscribers in the total user base also increased from 44.05 per cent in September 2018 to 44.38 per cent in December 2018. Vodafone Idea had the highest share of rural subscribers (52.67 per cent) followed by Bharti Airtel (48.98 per cent).


The country’s wireline subscriber base reduced from 22.11 million to 21.87 million during the period under review, thereby decreasing wireline teledensity from 1.69 per cent to 1.67 per cent. The rural subscriber base decreased from 3.17 million to 3.11 million, a decline of 1.76 per cent over the previous quarter. Meanwhile, the urban subscriber base declined from 18.95 million to 18.76 million, down by 1 per cent during the same period.

BSNL continued to lead the market with a 52.31 per cent share. However, the company’s subscriber base decreased by about 0.2 per cent during October-December 2018 to stand at 11.44 million at the end of the quarter. Bharti Airtel recorded the highest net additions (50,000 subscribers) during the period.

The total number of public call offices in the country declined from 305,395 as of end September 2018 to 275,032 as of end December 2018. Meanwhile, the number of village public telephones increased from 123,736 to 132,403. At the end of the quarter, only 22.3 per cent of the country’s 593,731 inhabited villages (as per Census 2001) were connected.


The total wireless subscriber base (GSM and CDMA) grew by 0.57 per cent from 1,169.29 million in September 2018 to 1,176 million in December 2018. The teledensity increased from 89.51 per cent to 89.78 per cent. The rural wireless subscriber base increased from 521.59 million to 528.48 million during the period under consideration. However, the number of urban wireless subscribers decreased marginally from 647.7 million to 647.52 million. The share of rural subscriber base in the total wireless subscribers increased from 44.61 per cent to 44.94 per cent during the same period.

With a subscriber base of 418.75 million, Vodafone Idea had the highest share of 35.61 per cent in the wireless market, followed by Bharti Airtel with 340.26 million users and Reliance Jio with 280.12 million users. In terms of net additions, only Reliance Jio and BSNL showed positive growth in their wireless subscriber base. All other service providers witnessed a decline in their subscriber base.

Mobile ARPUs and usage

Wireless services

The monthly all-India blended ARPU for GSM and long-term evolution (LTE) services increased from Rs 67 in the quarter ended September 2018 to Rs 70 in the quarter ended December 2018. Prepaid ARPUs increased from Rs 57 to Rs 60, while post-paid ARPUs declined from Rs 299 to Rs 296.

The overall monthly minutes of usage per subscriber per month increased from 627 minutes during the quarter ended September 2018 to 667 minutes during the quarter ended December 2018. The ratio of incoming and outgoing MoUs stood at 50.6:49.4. The number of outgoing SMSs per subscriber per month declined from 17 to 16 during the same period.

Quality of service

During October-December 2018, the quality of service (QoS) performance of wireless service providers improved in terms of the call set-up success rate and session establishment success rate for circuit switched voice or voice over LTE as applicable (within the licensee’s own network), the drop call rate DCR spatial distribution measure, the DCR temporal distribution measure, point of interconnection congestion, metering and billing credibility (post-paid), percentage of requests for the termination/closure of service complied with within seven days and time taken for the refund of deposits after closures.

The QoS performance of wireless service providers deteriorated in terms of metering and billing credibility (prepaid), period of applying credits/waivers/adjustments to customer accounts from the date of resolution of complaints and percentage of calls answered by operators (voice to voice) within 90 seconds.

Internet and broadband

TRAI has divided the segment into two parts – internet subscribers who do not access services through mobile devices, and internet subscribers who access services through mobile devices.

As of end December 2018, the country had 604.21 million internet subscribers, including those accessing the internet through mobile handsets. The wired internet subscriber base stood at 21.42 million. Reliance Jio led the internet market with 280.1 million subscribers as of end December 2018, followed by Vodafone Idea (150.47 million) and Bharti Airtel (133.94 million). The top 10 internet service providers together accounted for 99.47 per cent of the subscriber base. The top five circles in terms of internet subscriptions (wired and wireless) were Andhra Pradesh (50.73 million), Maharashtra (50.5 million), Tamil Nadu, including Chennai (44.03 million), Uttar Pradesh (East) (40.85 million) and Madhya Pradesh (38.57 million).

As of December 2018, there were 525.36 million broadband subscribers and 78.86 million narrowband subscribers. Wireless (dongle and phone) was the most preferred technology for providing broadband services and it constituted 96.38 per cent of the total broadband subscriber base. The top five circles in terms of broadband subscriptions were Maharashtra (44.24 million), Andhra Pradesh including Telangana (41.45 million), Tamil Nadu including Chennai (39.14 million), Karnataka (34.5 million) and Gujarat (34.4 million).

Financial performance

During the quarter ended December 2018, the sector’s gross revenue and adjusted gross revenue (AGR) stood at Rs 589.91 billion and Rs 360.54 billion respectively. The gross revenue increased by 2.1 per cent as compared to the previous quarter, whereas AGR decreased by 0.24 per cent. s

Kuhu Singh Abbhi