The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recently released the performance indicator report (PIR) for the October-December 2020 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) increased from 1,168.66 million as of end September 2020 to 1,173.83 million as of end December 2020, registering a growth of 0.44 per cent. Meanwhile, the subscriber base reflected a year-on-year decline of 0.12 per cent over the same quarter in 2019. The overall teledensity increased from 86.22 per cent as of September 30, 2020 to 86.38 per cent as of December 31, 2020.

Reliance Jio emerged as a leader with 411.53 million subscribers as of December 31, 2020, followed by Bharti Airtel (343.27 million) and Vodafone Idea (284.78 million). In terms of net additions during the quarter, Bharti Airtel recorded the highest growth with 12.25 million additions, while Reliance Jio and Quadrant added 5.32 million and 0.017 million subscribers respectively. However, Vodafone Idea witnessed negative growth, losing 11.22 million subscribers during the quarter.

Telecom subscriptions in urban areas increased from 644.26 million as of end September 2020 to 647.91 million as of end December 2020, and urban teledensity increased from 138.25 per cent to 138.34 per cent. Meanwhile, the rural telecom subscriber base from 524.39 million to 525.92 million, resulting in an increase in rural teledensity from 58.96 per cent to 59.05 per cent. The share of rural subscribers in the total user base decreased from 44.87 per cent to 44.8 per cent during the period under consideration. Vodafone Idea had the highest share of rural subscribers (53.72 per cent), followed by Bharti Airtel (46.73 per cent).

Wireline

The country’s wireline subscriber base decreased from 20.08 million to 20.05 million during the period under review. The wireline teledensity remained the same at 1.48 per cent.

The rural wireline subscriber base decreased from 1.98 million as of end September 2020 to 1.81 million as of end December 2020, registering a decline of 8.13 per cent. Meanwhile, the urban wireline subscriber base increased from 18.1 million to 18.24 million, up by 0.75 per cent.

BSNL continued to lead the market with a 35.75 per cent share. However, the company’s subscriber base decreased by 7.39 per cent during October-December 2020 to stand at 7.17 million at the end of the quarter. Jio recorded the highest net additions (0.68 million subscribers) during the period. The total number of public call offices in the country declined from 155,182 during the quarter ended September 2020 to 137,015 during the quarter ended December 2020. Meanwhile, the number of village public telephones remained the same at 68,606.

Wireless

The total wireless subscriber base (GSM and CDMA) increased by 0.45 per cent, from 1,148.58 million in September 2020 to 1,153.77 million in December 2020. The teledensity increased from 84.74 per cent to 84.9 per cent. The rural wireless subscriber base increased from 522.42 million to 524.11 million. However, the share of rural subscribers in the total wireless subscriber base decreased to 45.43 per cent during the period under consideration. Meanwhile, the number of urban wireless subscribers increased from 626.16 million to 629.67 million.

With a subscriber base of 408.77 million, Reliance Jio had the highest share of 35.43 per cent in the wireless market, followed by Bharti Airtel with 338.71 million users (29.36 per cent) and Vodafone Idea with 284.26 million users (24.64 per cent). Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio showed positive growth in their wireless subscriber base, with net additions of 12.1 million and 4.64 million respectively. However, Vodafone Idea witnessed a decline of 11.24 million subscribers.

Mobile ARPUs and usage

The monthly all-India blended ARPU for GSM and LTE services increased by 4.93 per cent from Rs 96.87 in the quarter ended September 2020 to Rs 101.65 in the quarter ended December 2020. Prepaid ARPUs increased from Rs 90 to Rs 95 while post-paid ARPUs decreased from Rs 234 to Rs 227.

The overall monthly minutes of usage (MoUs) per subscriber per month increased from 761 to 785 during the period. The ratio of incoming and outgoing MoUs stood at 50.1:49.9 during the quarter ended December 2020. Meanwhile, the average number of outgoing SMSs per subscriber per month stood at 16.

Quality of service

During October-December 2020, the quality of service (QoS) performance of wireless service providers improved in terms of TCH, RAB and E-RAB congestion, network QoS dropped call rate (DCR) spatial distribution, network QoS DCR temporal distribution, resolution of billing/charging/validity complaints, period of applying credits/waivers/adjustments to customer accounts from the date of complaint resolution, 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 closure.

However, QoS performance deteriorated in terms of worst-affected BTSs due to downtime, uplink (UL) packet drop rate or UL-PDR, and accessibility of call centres/customer care.

Meanwhile, the QoS performance of wireline service providers showed improvement in terms of percentage of faults repaired by the next working day (in urban areas), percentage of faults repaired by the next working day (in rural and hilly areas), mean time to repair (MTTR), metering and billing credibility for post-paid users, accessibility to call centres/customer care, 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 in terms of fault incidences or number of faults per 100 subscribers per month.

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. The number of internet service providers (ISPs) in the country grew from 388 during the quarter ended September 2020 to 396 during the quarter ended December 2020. The number of internet subscribers in the country increased from 776.45 million to 795.18 million during the period under consideration. The wired internet subscriber base stood at 25.54 million during the quarter ended December 2020.

Reliance Jio led the internet market with 410.84 million subscribers as of end December 2020, followed by Bharti Airtel (203.37 million) and Vodafone Idea (137.62 million). The top 10 ISPs together accounted for 99.36 per cent of the total subscriber base. The top five circles in terms of internet subscriptions (wired and wireless) were Maharashtra (69.01 million), Andhra Pradesh including Telangana (62.59 million), Uttar Pradesh East (58.59 million), Tamil Nadu (54.45 million) and Bihar including Jharkhand (53.01 million).

As of end December 2020, there were 747.41 million broadband subscribers and 47.77 million narrowband subscribers. Wireless (dongle and phone) was the most preferred technology for providing broadband services, constituting 96.93 per cent of the total broadband subscriber base. The top five circles in terms of broadband subscriptions were Maharashtra (65.32 million), Andhra Pradesh including Telangana (59.26 million), Uttar Pradesh East (53.85 million), Tamil Nadu (51.06 million) and Madhya Pradesh (49.58 million).

Wireless data usage

The total wireless data usage increased from 25,227 petabyte (PB) during the quarter ended September 2020 to 26,405 PB during the quarter ended December 2020. Of the total data wireless usage, 2G data usage stood at 155 PB, 3G at 619 PB and 4G at 25,631 PB. The share of 3G and 4G in the total volume of wireless data usage was about 2.34 per cent and 97.07 per cent, respectively, during the quarter ended December 2020.

Financial performance

During the quarter ended December 2020, the sector’s gross revenue and adjusted gross revenue (AGR) stood at Rs 715.88 billion and Rs 476.23 billion respectively. The gross revenue increased by 4.92 per cent as compared to the previous quarter, while the AGR grew by 4.19 per cent. The gross revenue and AGR recorded a year-on-year growth of 12.27 per cent and 16.5 per cent respectively. s

By Kuhu Singh Abbhi