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TRAI Chief allays concerns on dip in mobile user base; rules out intervention

TT Correspondent | 03 Jun 2019

The recent drop seen in the mobile subscriber base is not a cause of worry nor does it call for the regulator's intervention as the fluctuation is on account of multiple factors like minimum recharge plans and will correct in due course, TRAI Chairman R S Sharma said.

India's total wireless subscriber base fell to 1,161.8 million on March 31, 2019, shedding 21.87 million users over the previous month, according to data released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recently. The overall tele-density in India declined to 90.11 at the end of March from 91.86 in February.

Sharma, however, sought to allay any concern on the headline subscriber numbers.

"These are fluctuations which happen due to multiple factors, like telecom operators have started monthly minimal recharge to keep the connections live...that could have led to inactive connections getting removed. These are minor variations which I don't think are major fluctuations, and I don't think it is a cause for worry," Sharma told PTI.

Asked if the regulator intends to intervene to contain the situation, he said, "There is no question of intervening".

"The way data services are being used by the people, I am sure this market is not going to stop. The fluctuation in numbers are due to multiple factors so these corrections, they take place due to certain factors. They are not a matter of concern," he emphasised.

Mobile subscriber base of Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel shrunk by nearly 14.5 million and 15.1 million, respectively, as of March (over the previous month) while Reliance Jio added 9.4 million users in the month, according to the TRAI data.

"Total wireless subscribers declined from 1,183.68 million at the end of Feb-19 to 1,161.81 million at the end of Mar-19, thereby registering a monthly decline rate of 1.85 per cent," it said.

The wireless subscription in urban areas declined to 650.49 million in March-end from 656.57 million in February-end, and rural user base also plunged to 511.32 million from 527.11 million during the period.

Industry body Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI) also has been of the opinion that not too much should be read into the drop in mobile subscriber numbers for March, as the reduced numbers are a result of consolidation of multiple, unused SIMs and weeding out of low-usage connections by operators.