The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recently released the performance indicator report (PIR) for the July-September 2017 quarter. The report, prepared on the basis of information provided by service providers, highlights the trends in the telecom sector during this period.
According to the report, the country’s telecom subscriber base (wireless and wireline) decreased from 1,210.84 million as of end-June 2017 to 1,206.71 million as of end-September 2017, registering a decline of 0.34 per cent over the previous quarter. Meanwhile, the subscriber base reflected a year-on-year growth of 12.33 per cent. The overall teledensity decreased from 93.98 per cent as of June 30, 2017 to 93.4 per cent as of September 30, 2017.
Bharti Airtel led the pack with 285.95 million subscribers as of September 30, 2017, followed by Vodafone India (207.63 million) and Idea Cellular (190.16 million). With regard to net additions during the quarter, new entrant Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited (RJIL) recorded the highest growth with 15.25 million additions followed by Bharti Airtel with 1.4 million. Meanwhile, Reliance Communications lost 9.17 million subscribers, recording the maximum decline in subscriber base during the quarter ended September 2017.
Telecom subscription in urban areas increased from 700.96 million as of end-June 2017 to 704.89 million as of end-September 2017, while urban teledensity increased from 172.98 per cent to 173.15 per cent.
The rural telecom subscriber base decreased from 509.88 million to 501.82 million during the same period, leading a decline in rural teledensity from 57.73 per cent to 56.71 per cent. The share of rural subscribers in the total user base also decreased from 42.11 per cent in June 2017 to 41.59 per cent in September 2017. Idea Cellular continued to have the highest share of rural subscribers (54.85 per cent) in its user base, followed by Vodafone India (54.78 per cent).
The country’s wireline subscriber base reduced from 24 million to 23.67 million during the period under review, thereby decreasing wireline teledensity from 1.86 per cent to 1.83 per cent. The rural subscriber base dropped from 3.69 million to 3.55 million, while the urban subscriber base decreased from 20.31 million to 20.12 million.
Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) continued to lead the market with a 54.06 per cent share. However, the company’s subscriber base decreased by about 3.14 per cent during July-September 2017 to stand at 12.8 million at the end of the quarter. Aircel recorded the highest net additions (72,000 subscribers) during the period.
The total number of public call offices in the country stood at 413,275 as of end-September 2017, as compared to 429,139 as of end-June 2017. The number of village public telephones declined from 222,780 as of end-June 2017 to 207,292 as of end-September 2017. At the end of the quarter, 34.91 per cent of the country’s 593,731 inhabited villages (as per Census 2001) were connected.
The total wireless (GSM and CDMA) subscriber base declined by 0.32 per cent from 1,186.84 million in June 2017 to 1,183.04 million in September 2017. The teledensity decreased from 92.12 per cent to 91.56 per cent. The share of rural subscribers decreased from 42.65 per cent to 42.12 per cent during the quarter under review.
GSM services, including long term evolution (LTE), continued to dominate the wireless market, accounting for 99.2 per cent of the total wireless subscriber base. The GSM subscriber base stood at 1,173.63 million in September 2017 as against 1,176.31 million in June 2017, registering a decline of 0.23 per cent. Meanwhile, the CDMA user base registered a decline of 10.64 per cent, from 10.53 million to 9.41 million, during the same period.
With a subscriber base of 282.05 million, Bharti Airtel had the highest share of 24.03 per cent in the GSM market, followed by Vodafone India with 207.44 million users and Idea Cellular with 190.16 million users.
There were only three operators providing CDMA services during the quarter. Among these operators, Tata Teleservices Limited was in the leadership position with a subscriber base of 5.21 million and a market share of 55.32 per cent. It was followed by Sistema Shyam TeleServices Limited and BSNL with 3.52 million and 0.69 million subscribers respectively.
Mobile ARPUs and usage
GSM and LTE services
The monthly all-India blended ARPU for GSM and LTE services increased from Rs 79.58 in the quarter ended June 2017 to Rs 83.89 in the quarter ended September 2017. Prepaid ARPUs for these services increased from Rs 65 to Rs 71, while post-paid ARPUs decreased from Rs 389 to Rs 361.
The overall monthly minutes of usage (MoUs) per subscriber for GSM and LTE services increased from 428 during the quarter ended June 2017 to 437 during the quarter ended September 2017. The ratio of incoming and outgoing MoUs stood at 49.4:50.6. The number of outgoing SMSs per subscriber per month declined from 16 to 15 during the same period.
The monthly all-India blended ARPU for CDMA mobile services increased marginally from Rs 124 in the quarter ended June 2017 to Rs 125 in the quarter ended September 2017. The ARPU for prepaid services increased from Rs 58 to Rs 68 during this period, while post-paid ARPUs decreased from Rs 537 to Rs 524.
The overall monthly CDMA MoUs per subscriber declined by 16.7 per cent from 247 in the quarter ended June 2017 to 206 in the quarter ended September 2017.
The prepaid MoUs per subscriber per month declined substantially from 256 in the quarter ended June 2017 to 196 in the quarter ended September 2017, while postpaid MoUs per subscriber per month increased from 193 to 223.
Quality of service
During June-September 2017, the performance of 2G wireless service providers improved in terms of point-of-interconnection congestion, metering and billing credibility (prepaid), resolution of billing/ charging/validity complaints (100 per cent within six weeks) and the period of applying credit/waivers/adjustments to customer accounts from the date of complaint resolution. On the other hand, the QoS of 2G wireless service providers deteriorated on account of worst-affected BTSs due to downtime, call set-up success rate (within the licensee’s network), SDCCH/paging channel congestion, worst-affected cells with traffic channel (TCH) drop (call drop) rate of more than 3 per cent, metering and billing credibility (post-paid), 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 in the refund of deposits after closures.
3G operators showed an improvement in QoS in terms of worst-affected cells with TCH drop (call drop) and circuit switched voice drop – CBBH rates of more than 3 per cent. On the other hand, the QoS deteriorated on account of SDCCH/paging channel and RRC congestion.
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 2017, the country had 156 internet service providers (ISPs) and 429.23 million internet subscribers, including those accessing the internet through mobile handsets. The wired internet subscriber base stood at 21.35 million. RJIL led the internet market with a 32.29 per cent share (0.138 billion subscribers as of end-September 2017), followed by Bharti Airtel (94.3 million) and Vodafone India (67.71 million). The top 10 ISPs together accounted for 98.46 per cent of the subscriber base. The top five circles in terms of internet subscriptions (wired and wireless) were Maharashtra (35.01 million), Tamil Nadu including Chennai (34.47 million), Andhra Pradesh (32.57 million), Karnataka (29.11 million) and Uttar Pradesh (East) (28.46 million).
As of September 2017, there were 324.89 million broadband subscribers and 104.34 million narrowband subscribers. Wireless (dongle and phone) was the most preferred technology for providing broadband services and it constituted 94.31 per cent of the total broadband subscriber base. The top five circles in terms of broadband subscriptions were Maharashtra (27.9 million), Tamil Nadu including Chennai (26.21 million), Andhra Pradesh (25.1 million), Karnataka (23.58 million) and Delhi (23.45 million).
During the quarter ended September 2017, the sector’s gross revenue and adjusted gross revenue stood at Rs 663.62 billion and Rs 416.69 billion respectively, recording a significant decline of 7.03 per cent and 17.55 per cent over the previous quarter.