India Telecom Firms Lost 29 Lakh Gross Subscribers In March: Motilal Oswal
Daily laborers wearing face coverings and protective masks look at a mobile phone while waiting for work in Mumbai. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

India Telecom Firms Lost 29 Lakh Gross Subscribers In March: Motilal Oswal

India’s telecom operators lost 29 lakh gross subscribers over the previous month in March as the world's biggest lockdown to prevent the coronavirus pandemic hampered business despite tariff hikes.

That compares with 40-50 lakh monthly gross user additions in January and February, Motilal Oswal said in a report, citing data released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. The industry's gross subscriber base stood at 115.8 crore as of March.

“We are certain that the lower addition has been hit by restrictions from mid-March and the nationwide lockdown during the latter half of the month,” the brokerage said in the report. India imposed the stringent stay-at-home restrictions on March 25, shutting all but essential services in the world's second-largest telecom market. But the full impact is likely to be seen when the data for April and May are released.

The carriers, however, added 22 lakh active or paying users—a metric that matters most—over the previous month in March, taking the total base for such subscribers to 98.9 crore.

Vodafone Idea Ltd. is the worst-hit among peers as it lost 64 lakh gross and 8 lakh active subscribers. Bharti Airtel Ltd. reported a loss in gross subscribers but added active users. Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. added both gross and active customers but at a slower pace than before.

Still, Bharti Airtel has the highest active subscriber base. That's followed by Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea, respectively.

  • Bharti Airtel had 31.5 crore active subscribers as of March, compared with the industry’s base of 98.9 crore.
  • Reliance Jio’s total active subscribers stood at 31.4 crore.
  • Vodafone Idea's total active subscriber base stood at 29.4 crore as of March.

Broadband Users

The telecom industry’s monthly broadband subscriber base rose by 62 lakh in March compared with an increase of 77 lakh in February. The total broadband user base stood at 66.8 crore as of March.

Such users now account for 67.5%—a 50-basis-point rise over the previous month—of the total active subscribers in the market, led by Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, the report said. That's a rise from 53% in March 2019.

  • Bharti Airtel added 24 lakh broadband subscribers in March compared with 13 lakh in February. Its total broadband subscriber base stood at 14.6 crore as of March.
  • Reliance Jio added 47 lakh broadband subscribers compared with 63 lakh in February. The total base of such users stood at 38.8 crore as of March.
  • Vodafone Idea lost 8 lakh broadband subscribers, taking the total base to 11.7 crore. The company’s broadband market share shrank “probably on account of a drop in its network quality”, the report said.
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