The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recently released the performance indicator report (PIR) for the January-March 2018 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) increased from 1,190.67 million as of end-December 2017 to 1,206.22 million as of end-March 2018, registering a growth of 1.31 per cent over the previous quarter. Meanwhile, the subscriber base reflected a year-on-year growth of 0.97 per cent. The overall teledensity increased from 91.90 per cent as of December 31, 2017 to 92.84 per cent as of March 31, 2018.
Bharti Airtel led the pack with 308.12 million subscribers as of March 31, 2018, followed by Vodafone India (222.92 million) and Idea Cellular (211.21 million). With regard to net additions during the quarter, Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited (RJIL) recorded the highest growth with 26.47 million additions followed by Idea Cellular with 14.71 million. The telecom subscription in urban areas declined from 688.25 million as of end-December 2017 to 681.61 million as of end-March 2018, while urban teledensity also declined from 168.29 per cent to 165.90 per cent during the same period.
The rural telecom subscriber base increased from 502.42 million to 524.61 million during the same period, registering an increase in rural teledensity from 56.66 per cent to 59.05 per cent. The share of rural subscribers in the total user base also increased from 42.20 per cent in December 2017 to 43.49 per cent in March 2018. Idea Cellular continued to have the highest share of rural subscribers (54.33 per cent) followed by Vodafone India (53.97 per cent).
The country’s wireline subscriber base reduced from 23.23 million to 22.81 million during the period under review, decreasing the wireline teledensity from 1.79 per cent to 1.76 per cent. The rural subscriber base dropped from 3.42 million to 3.38 million, a decline of 1.23 per cent over the previous quarter. Meanwhile, the urban subscriber base also decreased from 19.81 million to 19.43 million, down by 1.93 per cent over the previous quarter.
Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) continued to lead the market with a 53.78 per cent share. However, the company’s subscriber base decreased by about 1.31 per cent during January-March 2018 to stand at 12.27 million at the end of the quarter. Bharti Airtel and Vodafone India recorded the highest net additions during the period.
The total number of public call offices in the country declined from 393,483 as of end-December 2017 to 360,053 as of end-March 2018. The number of village public telephones declined from 202,395 as of end-December 2017 to 199,057 as of end-March 2018. At the end of the quarter, 33.53 per cent of the country’s 593,731 inhabited villages (as per Census 2001) were connected.
The total wireless (GSM and CDMA) subscriber base increased by 1.37 per cent from 1,167.44 million in December 2017 to 1,183.41 million in March 2018. The teledensity increased from 90.11 per cent to 91.09 per cent. The share of rural subscribers in the total wireless subscribers increased from 42.68 per cent to 44.04 per cent during the quarter under review.
GSM services, including long term evolution (LTE), continued to dominate the wireless market, accounting for 99.64 per cent of the total wireless subscriber base. The GSM subscriber base stood at 1,162.20 million in December 2017 as against 1,179.12 million in March 2018, registering an increase of 1.46 per cent. Meanwhile, the CDMA user base registered a decline of 18.13 per cent, from 5.24 million to 4.29 million, during the same period.
Mobile ARPUs and usage
GSM and LTE services
The monthly all-India blended ARPU for GSM and LTE services decreased by 4.22 per cent from Rs 79 in the quarter ended December 2017 to Rs 76 in the quarter ended March 2018. The monthly ARPU for GSM service, including LTE, declined by 8.03 per cent year on year. Prepaid ARPUs for these services declined from Rs 67 to Rs 62, while post-paid ARPUs increased from Rs 348 to Rs 360.
The overall monthly minutes of usage per subscriber for GSM and LTE services increased from 495 minutes during the quarter ended December 2017 to 584 minutes during the quarter ended March 2018. The ratio of incoming and outgoing minutes of usage stood at 50.6:49.4. The number of outgoing SMSs per subscriber per month increased from 17 to 20 during the same period.
The monthly all-India blended ARPU for CDMA mobile services declined by 28.54 per cent from Rs 111 in the quarter ended December 2017 to Rs 79 in the quarter ended March 2018. The ARPU for prepaid services decreased from Rs 30 to Rs 24 during this period, while post-paid ARPUs decreased from Rs 517 to Rs 393.
The overall monthly CDMA minutes of usage per subscriber declined by 46.2 per cent from 112 minutes in the quarter ended December 2017 to 61 minutes in the quarter ended March 2018. The outgoing minutes of usage declined from 73 in the quarter ended December 2017 to 39 in the quarter ended March 2018, while the number of incoming minutes of usage also declined from 40 to 22 during the same period.
The prepaid minutes of usage per subscriber per month declined substantially from 142 in the quarter ended December 2017 to 90 in the quarter ended March 2018, while postpaid minutes of usage per subscriber per month decreased from 240 to 181.
Quality of service
During January-March 2018, the quality of service (QoS) performance of wireless service providers improved in terms of BS accumulated down-time, but worst affected base transceiver stations (BTS) due to downtime, traffic channels, radio access bearer (RAB) and E-RAB congestion, QoS drop call rate spatial distribution measure, network QoS DCR temporal distribution measure, point-of-interconnection congestion, metering and billing credibility (postpaid), period of applying credit/ waivers/adjustments to customer accounts from the date of complaint resolution, accessibility of call centre/customer care, percentage of requests for termination/ closure of service complied within seven days and time taken for refund of deposits after closures. On the other hand, the QoS performance of wireless service providers deteriorated on account of the percentage of calls answered by the operators (voice to voice) within 90 seconds.
Additionally, the QoS performance of wireline service providers improved in terms of fault incidences, percentage of calls answered by the operators (voice to voice) within 90 seconds and 100 per cent termination/closure of service within 7 days. Meanwhile, the QoS performance has declined in terms of the response time to the customer for assistance – 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-March 2018, the country had 493.96 million internet subscribers, including those accessing the internet through mobile handsets. The wired internet subscriber base stood at 21.24 million. RJIL led the internet market with 186.56 million subscribers as of end-March 2018, followed by Bharti Airtel (116.24 million) and Vodafone India (75.97 million). The top 10 internet service providers together accounted for 99.03 per cent of the subscriber base. The top five circles in terms of internet subscriptions (wired and wireless) were Tamil Nadu including Chennai (39.56 million), Maharashtra (39.51 million), Andhra Pradesh (37.62 million), Uttar Pradesh (East) (34.75 million) and Karnataka (32.14 million).
As of March 2018, there were 412.60 million broadband subscribers and 81.35 million narrowband subscribers. Wireless (dongle and phone) was the most preferred technology for providing broadband services and it constituted 95.54 per cent of the total broadband subscriber base. The top five circles in terms of broadband subscriptions were Maharashtra (34.69 million), Tamil Nadu including Chennai (33.38 million), Andhra Pradesh including Telangana (32.06 million), Gujarat (28.03 million) and Karnataka (27.89 million).
During the quarter ended March 2018, the sector’s gross revenue increased by 1.82 per cent to Rs 621.98 billion from Rs 610.89 billion in the previous quarter. Meanwhile, the adjusted gross revenue declined by 7.37 per cent to Rs 356.97 billion from Rs 385.36 billion during the same period.