The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recently released the performance indicator report (PIR) for the July-September 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) grew marginally from 1,186.63 million as of end June 2019 to 1,195.24 million as of end September 2019, registering a growth of 0.73 per cent. Meanwhile, the subscriber base reflected a year-on-year growth rate of 0.32 per cent over the same quarter in 2018. The overall teledensity increased from 90.11 per cent as of June 30, 2019 to 90.52 per cent as of September 30, 2019.

Vodafone Idea Limited emerged as the leader with 372.86 million subscribers as of September 30, 2019, followed by Reliance Jio (356.08 million) and Bharti Airtel (329.88 million). With regard to net additions during the quarter, Jio recorded the highest growth with 24.83 million additions, followed by Airtel (5.23 million) and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) (0.33 million). Meanwhile, Vodafone Idea witnessed negative growth in its subscriber base during the quarter.

Telecom subscription in urban areas increased from 675.58 million as of end June 2019 to 677.95 million as of end September 2019, while urban teledensity reduced from 160.78 per cent to 160.63 per cent. The rural telecom subscriber base increased from 511.05 million as of end June 2019 to 517.29 million as of end September 2019, resulting in an increase in rural teledensity from 56.99 per cent to 57.59 per cent. The share of rural subscribers in the total user base also increased from 43.07 per cent to 43.28 per cent during the period under consideration. Vodafone Idea had the highest share of rural subscribers (37.44 per cent), followed by Reliance Jio (27.62 per cent).

Wireline

The country’s wireline subscriber base grew from 21.17 million to 21.49 million during the period under review, thereby increasing wireline teledensity from 1.61 per cent to 1.63 per cent.

The rural wireline subscriber base decreased from 2.85 million as of end June 2019 to 2.72 million as of end September 2019, registering a decline of 4.62 per cent. Meanwhile, the urban wireline subscriber base increased from 18.31 million to 18.77 million, a growth of 2.47 per cent. BSNL continued to lead the market with a 47.13 per cent share. However, the company’s subscriber base decreased by 4.39 per cent during July-September 2019 to stand at 10.13 million at the end of the quarter. Jio recorded the highest net additions (0.86 million subscribers) during the period.

The total number of public call offices (PCOs) in the country declined from 228,371 during the quarter ended June 2019 to 207,243 during the quarter ended September 2019. The number of village public telephones also declined from 104,466 to 70,843.

Wireless

The total wireless subscriber base (GSM and CDMA) increased by 0.71 per cent from 1,165.46 million in June 2019 to 1,173.75 million in September 2019. The teledensity increased from 88.5 per cent to 88.9 per cent.

The rural wireless subscriber base increased from 508.19 million to 514.56 million while the share of rural subscribers in the total wireless subscriber base increased from 43.6 per cent to 43.84 per cent during the period under consideration. Meanwhile, the number of urban wireless subscribers increased from 657.27 million to 659.18 million.

With a subscriber base of 372.49 million, Vodafone Idea had the highest share of 31.73 per cent in the wireless market, followed by Reliance Jio with 355.22 million users (30.26 per cent) and Bharti Airtel with 325.57 million users (27.74 per cent). Only Jio and BSNL showed positive growth in their wireless subscriber base, with net additions of 23.97 million and 0.79 million respectively. All other service providers witnessed a decline in their subscriber base during the quarter.

Mobile ARPUs and usage

The monthly all-India blended ARPU for GSM and LTE services increased marginally from Rs 74.30 in the quarter ended June 2019 to Rs 74.38 in the quarter ended September 2019. Prepaid ARPU increased from Rs 66 to Rs 67 while post-paid ARPU declined from Rs 253 to Rs 247. The overall monthly minutes of usage (MoUs) per subscriber per month declined from 701 during the quarter ended June 2019 to 691 during the quarter ended September 2019. The ratio of incoming and outgoing MoUs stood at 50.1:49.9 during the quarter ended September 2019. Meanwhile, the number of outgoing SMSs per subscriber per month stood at 18.

Quality of service

During July-September 2019, the quality of service (QoS) performance of wireless service providers improved in terms of TCH, RAB and E-RAB congestion, accessibility to call centres/customer care, percentage of requests for the termination/ closure of service complied with within seven days and the time taken for the refund of deposits after closures. The QoS performance of wireless service providers deteriorated in terms of period of applying credits/waivers/adjustments to customer accounts from the date of resolution of complaints, BS accumulated downtime, SDCCH/paging channel congestion/RRC congestion, network QoS DCR spatial and temporal distribution measure, metering and billing for post-paid users, and the percentage of calls answered by operators (voice to voice) within 90 seconds.

Meanwhile, the QoS performance of wireline service providers deteriorated in terms of percentage of faults addressed within five days (for urban areas), mean time to repair, number of faults per 100 subscribers per month, percentage of calls answered by operators (voice to voice) within 90 seconds, accessibility to call centres/customer care, and the percentage of requests for the termination/closure of service complied with within seven days.

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 September 2019, the country had 687.62 million internet subscribers, including those accessing the internet through mobile handsets. The wired internet subscriber base stood at 22.26 million.

Reliance Jio led the internet market with 355.92 million subscribers as of end September 2019, followed by Bharti Airtel (154.88 million) and Vodafone Idea (140.34 million). The top 10 internet service providers together accounted for 99.51 per cent of the subscriber base. The top five circles in terms of internet subscriptions (wired and wireless) were Maharashtra (57.59 million), Andhra Pradesh including Telangana (53.8 million), Uttar Pradesh (East) (49.51 million), Tamil Nadu including Chennai (48.46 million) and Madhya Pradesh including Chhattisgarh (44.44 million).

As of end September 2019, there were 625.42 million broadband subscribers and 62.2 million narrowband subscribers. Wireless (dongle and phone) was the most preferred technology for providing broadband services and it constituted 96.87 per cent of the total broadband subscriber base. The top five circles in terms of broadband subscriptions were Maharashtra (52.47 million), Andhra Pradesh including Telangana (49.22 million), Tamil Nadu including Chennai (44.38 million), Uttar Pradesh (East) (43.54 million) and Karnataka (40.37 million).

Wireless data usage

The total wireless data usage increased from 17.94 million terabytes (TB) during the quarter ended June 2019 to 19.83 million TB during the quarter ended September 2019. Of the total wireless data usage, 0.12 million TB was on account of 2G, 1.13 million TB was 3G and 18.57 million TB was 4G data usage. The share of 3G and 4G in the total volume of wireless data usage was about 5.72 per cent and 93.65 per cent, respectively, during the quarter ended September 2019.

Financial performance

During the quarter ended September 2019, the sector’s gross revenue and adjusted gross revenue (AGR) stood at Rs 599.92 billion and Rs 373.38 billion respectively. The gross revenue declined by 2.51 per cent as compared to the previous quarter, while the AGR declined by 4.56 per cent. That said, the gross revenue and AGR recorded a year-on-year growth of 3.74 per cent and 3.31 per cent, respectively, during the quarter ended September 2019.

By Akanksha Mahajan Marwah