J&K impact: Active telecom user base falls in August, shows Trai data

VLR active subscription across the industry has been on downward graph except for Jio as telcos continue to push for SIM consolidation
August subscription data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) shows that the number of active telecom subscribers was down following the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) situation, among others.  

This led to a sharp drop in the visitor location registry or VLR (a term used to describe active subscriber base).

Active subscriber base declined by 2.2 million on a month-on-month (MoM) basis to 970.2 million in August 2019, on the back of Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea losing customers. Airtel and Vodafone Idea lost 5.7 million and 2.9 million active subscribers, respectively, during the month.

“We understand Bharti’s active subscribers were impacted by the J&K situation (down 3.0 million) and cleaning up of Tata Tele subscribers, which got merged in July 2019. RJio active subscriber net addition has been volatile, owing to recharge renewals for Jiophone, which added 7.2 million subscribers,” noted Sanjesh Jain, research analyst, ICICI Securities.

Jio was the only operator to add 7.2 million active subscribers in August 2019 (average of last three months/6 months at 7.1 million/6.6 million, respectively). In July 2019, Jio had added 4 million active subscribers.

At the gross level, Vodafone Idea has the highest subscriber base, but is losing it at a higher pace than Airtel. On the other hand, Jio is consistently adding subscribers and moving closer to the incumbents in terms of active subscriber base. In fact, Vodafone Idea’s active subscriber loss rate in August slowed down to 2.9 million compared to an average decline of 11 million every month over the last eight months. 

This resulted in a total active subscriber base of 308 million during August 2019. Since the merger of Vodafone India and Idea Cellular (September 2018), it has lost 99 million active subscribers. During the same time, however, data subscribers have shown strong growth contributing to a large chunk of the active user base. 

Airtel added 2.8 million mobile broadband subscribers (compared to 2.5 million in July 2019). Its market share remained flat at 21.2 per cent, with incremental broadband market share at 24 per cent. Excluding the estimated Jiophone offtake (around 4 million), it is expected to have garnered almost 35 per cent incremental market share.  “Industry mobile broadband subscriber additions stood at 11.5 million in August 2019 (it was over 9.4 million in July 2019) to reach 597 million, accounting for 61 per cent (over 130 bp MoM) of total active subscribers in the market,” noted Aliasgar Shakir, research analyst, Motilal Oswal. 

This also includes Jiophone subscribers, excluding which we estimate mobile broadband additions of around 8 million,” noted Aliasgar Shakir, research analyst, Motilal Oswal. Vodafone Idea added 0.2 million broadband subscribers in August.

Vodafone Idea lost 4.95 million subscribers in August and Bharti Airtel, the country’s third-largest telecom operator, in terms of wireless subscribers, lost 0.56 million customers. Now, Jio’s overall subscriber base stands at 348.2 million, Vodafone Idea’s at 375 million and Airtel’s at 327.9 million.

State-owned operators BSNL and MTNL lost 0.21 million and 6,701 subscribers, respectively. Total number of wireless subscribers increased by 2.68 million to 1.17 billion in August. In August, 4.86 million requests were received for mobile number portability (MNP), a facility to switch from one telecom operator to another without changing the number.

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