The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recently released the performance indicator report (PIR) for the January-March 2019 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) decreased from 1,197.87 million as of end December 2018 to 1,183.51 million as of end March 2019, registering a decline of 1.2 per cent over the previous quarter. Meanwhile, the subscriber base reflected a year-on-year decline of 1.88 per cent over the same quarter in 2018. The overall teledensity decreased from 91.45 per cent as of December 31, 2018 to 90.11 per cent as on March 31, 2019.
Vodafone Idea Limited emerged as the leader with 395.17 million subscribers as of March 31, 2019, followed by Bharti Airtel (329.36 million) and Reliance Jio (306.72 million). With regard to net additions during the quarter, Jio recorded the highest growth with 26.61 million additions followed by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) with 1.1 million additions. All other operators witnessed negative growth in their subscriber base during the quarter.
Telecom subscription in urban areas increased from 666.28 million as of end December 2018 to 669.16 million as of end March 2019, whereas urban teledensity declined marginally from 159.98 per cent to 159.96 per cent. The rural telecom subscriber base declined from 531.59 million in December 2018 to 514.35 million in March 2019, resulting in a decline in rural teledensity from 59.5 per cent to 57.47 per cent. The share of rural subscribers in the total user base also declined from 44.38 per cent to 43.46 per cent. Vodafone Idea had the highest share of rural subscribers (52.42 per cent) followed by Bharti Airtel (45.28 per cent).
The country’s wireline subscriber base reduced from 21.87 million to 21.7 million during the period under review, resulting in a decline in wireline teledensity from 1.67 per cent to 1.65 per cent. The rural wireline subscriber base decreased from 3.11 million as of end December 2018 to 3.02 million as of end-March 2019, registering a decline of 2.77 per cent. Meanwhile, the urban wireline subscriber base declined from 18.76 million to 18.67 million, down by 0.46 per cent.
BSNL continued to lead the market with a 51.47 per cent share. However, the company’s subscriber base decreased by 2.37 per cent during January-March 2019 to stand at 11.17 million at the end of the quarter. Bharti Airtel recorded the highest net additions (0.13 million subscribers) during the period.
The total number of public call offices in the country declined from 280,646 as of end December 2018 to 255,268 as of end March 2019. The number of village public telephones (VPTs) also declined from 132,832 to 130,376. At the end of the quarter, only 21.96 per cent of the country’s 593,731 inhabited villages (according to Census 2001) were connected by VPTs.
The total wireless subscriber base (GSM and CDMA) declined by 1.21 per cent from 1,176 million in December 2018 to 1,161.81 million in March 2019. The teledensity declined from 89.78 per cent to 88.46 per cent. The rural wireless subscriber base decreased from 528.48 million to 511.32 million during the period under consideration. The share of rural subscribers in the total wireless subscriber base also declined from 44.94 per cent to 44.01 per cent during the period. Meanwhile, the number of urban wireless subscribers increased from 647.52 million to 650.49 million.
With a subscriber base of 394.84 million, Vodafone Idea had the highest share of 33.98 per cent in the wireless market, followed by Bharti Airtel with 325.18 million users and Reliance Jio with 306.72 million users. Only Reliance Jio and BSNL showed positive growth in their wireless subscriber base, with net additions of 26.61 million and 1.37 million respectively. All other service providers witnessed a decline in their subscriber base.
Mobile ARPUs and usage
The monthly all-India blended ARPU for GSM and long-term evolution (LTE) services increased from Rs 70.13 in the quarter ended December 2018 to Rs 71.39 in the quarter ended March 2019. Prepaid ARPUs increased from Rs 60 to Rs 63 while post-paid ARPUs declined from Rs 296 to Rs 261.
The overall monthly minutes of usage per subscriber per month increased from 666 minutes during the quarter ended December 2018 to 694 minutes during the quarter ended March 2019. The ratio of incoming and outgoing MoUs stood at 50.4:49.6. The number of outgoing SMSs per subscriber per month remained the same at 16.
Quality of service
During January-March 2019, the quality of service (QoS) performance of wireless service providers improved in terms of period of applying credits/waivers/adjustments to customer accounts from the date of resolution of complaints. The QoS performance of wireless service providers deteriorated in terms of accessibility to call centres/customer care, percentage of calls answered by operators (voice to voice) within 90 seconds, percentage of requests for the termination/closure of service complied with within seven days and time taken for the refund of deposits after closures.
Meanwhile, the QoS performance of wireline service providers improved in terms of percentage of faults repaired by the next working day (for urban areas), response time for assistance (accessibility to call centres/customer care) and percentage of calls answered by operators (voice to voice) within 90 seconds. The QoS performance of wireline service providers deteriorated in terms of fault incidences (number of faults per 100 subscribers per month) and mean time to repair.
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 March 2019, the country had 636.72 million internet subscribers, including those accessing the internet through mobile handsets. The wired internet subscriber base stood at 21.68 million. Reliance Jio led the internet market with 306.72 million subscribers as of end March 2019, followed by Vodafone Idea (146.3 million) and Bharti Airtel (142.71 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 Maharashtra (53.47 million), Andhra Pradesh (49.29 million), Tamil Nadu including Chennai (45.48 million), Uttar Pradesh East (44.97 million) and Madhya Pradesh (41.4 million).
As of end March 2019, there were 563.31 million broadband subscribers and 73.42 million narrowband subscribers. Wireless (dongle and phone) was the most preferred technology for providing broadband services and it constituted 96.5 per cent of the total broadband subscriber base. The top five circles in terms of broadband subscriptions were Maharashtra (47.22 million), Andhra Pradesh including Telangana (44.26 million), Tamil Nadu including Chennai (40.95 million), Uttar Pradesh (East) (37.65 million) and Gujarat (36.85 million).
During the quarter ended March 2019, the sector’s gross revenue and adjusted gross revenue (AGR) stood at Rs 584.14 billion and Rs 359.32 billion respectively. The gross revenue declined by 0.98 per cent as compared to the previous quarter while AGR decreased by 0.34 per cent. s
Akanksha Mahajan Marwah