India’s mobile subscriber base declined in September for the first time in six months. According to a Telecom Subscriber Report by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the subscriber base has shrunk by 3.6 million. The sharp rise in subscribers lost by Vodafone Idea contributed to the decline in growth; Meanwhile, other operators such as Reliance Jio have seen lower subscriptions to the service.
Vodafone Idea continued to lose mobile subscribers in September. Its user base fell by 4 million in September as it struggled to boost its 4G operations. This drop in subscribers by Vi was almost double the numbers the company reported in August, when its subscriber base fell by nearly 2 million subscribers. This sharp rise in subscriber loss comes at a time when the company has halted capital expenditures in 4G as well as 5G so that it can raise additional funds. Vi is also struggling to pay vendors such as Indus Towers and Nokia.
Usually, subscriber additions by Jio and Bharti Airtel can offset Vodafone Idea’s subscriber losses. However, Reliance saw subscriber additions drop sharply in September, adding 700,000 subscribers, compared to 3 million in August. Airtel maintains stable growth, continually adding 300,000 to 400,000 more subscribers each month. A possible reason for Jio’s decline could be the departure of lower-tier subscribers on the back of tariff increases.
The figures come as the industry counts another round of tariff increases for mobile phone plans. Bharti Airtel initiated the move earlier this month, discontinuing the ₹99 plan in two circuits, Gujarat and Odisha. Bharti Airtel has raised 57 per cent in the two constituencies and will later raise tariffs in phases nationwide.
It is not yet clear if the industry will follow Airtel’s initiative. The number of active wireless subscribers (at the date of the #VLR peak) in September was 1,013.97 million. The monthly growth rates of telephone subscriptions in urban and rural areas were 0.08 percent and -0.71 percent, respectively, in September.