The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recently released the performance indicator report (PIR) for the October-December 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 1,195.24 million as of end September 2019 to 1,172.44 million at the end of December 2019, registering a decline of 1.91 per cent. Meanwhile, the subscriber base reflected a year-on-year decline of 2.12 per cent over the same quarter in 2018. The overall teledensity decreased from 90.52 per cent as of September 30, 2019 to 88.56 per cent as of December 31, 2019.

Reliance Jio emerged as the leader with 371.07 million subscribers as of December 31, 2019, followed by Vodafone Idea (333.01 million) and Bharti Airtel (331.61 million). With regard to net additions during the quarter, Jio recorded the highest growth with 14.99 million additions, followed by Airtel with 1.73 million and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) with 0.51 million additions. Meanwhile, Vodafone Idea witnessed negative growth in its subscriber base.

Telecom subscriptions in urban areas decreased from 677.95 million as of end September 2019 to 662.45 million at the end of December 2019, while urban teledensity decreased from 160.63 per cent to 156.26 per cent. The rural telecom subscriber base decreased from 517.29 million as of end September 2019 to 509.99 million at the end of December 2019, resulting in a decline in rural teledensity from 57.59 per cent to 56.67 per cent. The share of rural subscribers in the total user base increased from 43.28 per cent to 43.5 per cent during the period under consideration. Vodafone Idea had the highest share of rural subscribers (51.85 per cent) followed by Bharti Airtel (44.45 per cent).

Wireline

The country’s wireline subscriber base decreased from 21.49 million to 21 million during the period under review, thereby reducing wireline teledensity from 1.63 per cent to 1.59 per cent.

The rural wireline subscriber base decreased from 2.72 million as of end-September 2019 to 2.53 million as of-December 2019, registering a decline of 7.07 per cent. Meanwhile, the urban wireline subscriber base declined from 18.77 million to 18.47 million, down by 1.56 per cent.

BSNL continued to lead the market with a 45.61 per cent share. However, the company’s subscriber base decreased by 5.43 per cent during October-December 2019 to stand at 9.58 million at the end of the quarter. Jio recorded the highest net additions (0.19 million subscribers) during the period. The total number of public call offices in the country declined from 207,243 during the quarter ended September 2019 to 193,794 during the quarter ended December 2019. The number of village public telephones also declined from 70,843 to 68,784.

Wireless

The total wireless subscriber base (GSM and CDMA) decreased by 1.9 per cent from 1,173.75 million in September 2019 to 1,151.44 million in December 2019. The teledensity declined from 88.90 per cent to 86.98 per cent. The rural wireless subscriber base declined from 514.56 million to 507.46 million. As a result, the share of rural subscribers in the total wireless subscriber base decreased to 44.07 during the period under consideration. Meanwhile, the number of urban wireless subscribers decreased from 659.18 million to 643.97 million.

With a subscriber base of 370.02 million, Reliance Jio had the highest share of 32.14 per cent in the wireless market, followed by Vodafone Idea with 332.61 million users (28.89 per cent) and Bharti Airtel with 327.3 million users (28.43 per cent). Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and BSNL all showed positive growth in their wireless subscriber base, with net additions of 14.79 million, 1.73 million and 1.06 million respectively. However, Vodafone Idea witnessed a decline of 39.87 million in its subscriber base during the quarter.

Mobile ARPUs and usage

The monthly all-India blended ARPU for GSM and LTE services increased by 5.74 per cent from Rs 74.38 in the quarter ended September 2019 to Rs 78.65 in the quarter ended December 2019. Prepaid ARPUs increased from Rs 67 to Rs 70 while post-paid ARPUs increased from

Rs 247 to Rs 262. The overall monthly minutes of usage (MoUs) per subscriber per month increased from 691 minutes during the quarter ended September 2019 to 712 minutes during the quarter ended December 2019. The ratio of incoming and outgoing MoUs stood at 50.2:49.8 during the quarter ended September 2019. Meanwhile, the number of outgoing SMSs per subscriber per month stood at 18.

Quality of service

During October-December 2019, the quality of service (QoS) performance of wireless service providers improved in terms of BS accumulated downtime (not available for service), worst-affected BSs due to downtime, SDCCH/paging channel congestion/RRC congestion, metering and billing credibility for post-paid users, and the period of applying credit/waiver/adjustment to customer accounts from the date of resolution of complaints. The QoS performance of wireless service providers deteriorated in terms of network QoS DCR spatial distribution measure, network QoS DCR temporal distribution measure, accessibility to call centres/customer care, percentage of calls answered by operators (voice-to-voice) within 90 seconds. Meanwhile, the QoS performance of wireline service providers showed improvement in terms of mean time to repair (MTTR), percentage of calls answered by operators (voice-to-voice) within 90 seconds, and percentage of requests for the termination/closure of service complied with within seven days. It deteriorated on account of number of faults per 100 subscribers per month, response time to customers for assistance, and accessibility to call centres/customer care.

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 2019, the country had 718.74 million internet subscribers, including those accessing the internet through mobile handsets. The wired internet subscriber base stood at 22.39 million. Reliance Jio led the internet market with 370.87 million subscribers as of end December 2019, followed by Bharti Airtel (167.03 million) and Vodafone Idea (142.07 million). The top 10 internet service providers together accounted for 99.5 per cent of the subscriber base. The top five circles in terms of internet subscriptions (wired and wireless) were Maharashtra (61.42 million), Andhra Pradesh including Telangana (56.74 million), Uttar Pradesh East (51.82 million), Tamil Nadu including Chennai (50.42 million) and Madhya Pradesh including Chhattisgarh (47.24 million).

As of end December 2019, there were 661.94 million broadband subscribers and 56.81 million narrowband subscribers. Wireless (dongle and phone) was the most preferred technology for providing broadband services and it constituted 97.02 per cent of the total broadband subscriber base. The top five circles in terms of broadband subscriptions were Maharashtra (56.36 million), Andhra Pradesh including Telangana (52.63 million), Tamil Nadu including Chennai (46.74 million), Uttar Pradesh East (46.65 million) and Madhya Pradesh (42.91 million).

Wireless data usage

The total wireless data usage increased from 19.83 million terabytes (TB) during the quarter ended September 2019 to 2.89 TB during the quarter ended December 2019. Of the total data wireless usage, 2G data usage stood at 0.14 million TB, 3G at 0.93 million TB and 4G data usage at 19.81 million TB. The share of 3G and 4G in the total volume of wireless data usage was about 4.47 per cent and 94.82 per cent respectively during the quarter ended December 2019.

Financial performance

During the quarter ended December 2019, the sector’s gross revenue and adjusted gross revenue (AGR) stood at Rs 637.64 billion and Rs 408.77 billion respectively. The gross revenue increased by 6.29 per cent as compared to the previous quarter, while the AGR grew by 9.48 per cent, recording a year-on-year growth of 8.09 per cent and 13.38 per cent respectively.

By Akanksha Mahajan Marwah