Telecom operators added a record 21.9 million subscribers on a net basis in March, with the top three operators adding more than 23 million users. The performance in March is the best for the industry in over a year. According to COAI data, operators added 10.8 million net subscribers in February. In a dismal performance in January 2018, the industry lost 1.2 million subscribers. March numbers are more than double of that achieved a month earlier.
Idea Cellular topped the chart by adding 9.14 million subscribers, its best in almost two years, followed by Bharti Airtel at 8.4 million and Vodafone India at 5.64 million. In total, these three operators added 23.1 million subscribers, but as Telenor lost 1.31 million, the total net numbers came down to 21.9 million for the month. Another interesting development during the month was that Idea for the second consecutive month had the highest subscriber additions. It added 4.42 million subscribers in February.
Since January 2017, net subscriber additions declined four times. Besides January 2018, when the industry lost 1.2 million subscribers, July, August and September witnessed loss of 3.8 million, 6.4 million and 2 million subscribers, respectively. Operators added 5.2 million during January 2017, 2.3 million in February, 5.7 million in March, 2.3 million in April, 2 million in June, 3.1 million in October and 8.3 million in November.
Analysts attributed high additions to shutting down of operations by players such as Aircel, Reliance Communications and Telenor. Subscribers of such operators have been porting out to other service providers. Aircel did not report the subscriber numbers for February and March. The COAI also does not report the latest numbers for Reliance Jio and Reliance Communications.
Higher additions in February and March clearly indicate that small operators are losing subscribers in large numbers as they are shutting operations or are in the process of merging with larger ones, and the next few months could see a similar trend, analysts said.
During the January-March quarter, the industry on a net basis added 31.54 million subscribers. Among individual operators, Bharti continues to hold the top spot in March with 29.37% subscriber market share and a count of 304.2 million. It was followed by Vodafone, which ended the month with 222.70 million subscribers and a market share of 21.50%. Idea’s total subscriber count stood at 211.2 million and the company controlled 20.39% of the market.
Among circles, the UP (East) continued at the top with 89.47 million subscriber addition.