Three major telecom players – Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular – have reported a decline in subscribers for the first time in over 10 years.

According to the operators this is largely due to the decline in actual growth amid prevailing uncertainty in the sector.

The three operators have jointly lost over five million subscribers. While Airtel has lost over 1.9 million, Vodafone has lost 1.56 million and Idea Cellular 1.65 million.Uninor and MTNL too lost 2.4 million and 105,702 customers respectively. This takes the overall wireless subscriber base to 908.36 million, according to data released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Tuesday evening.

A fall in users in August

A fall in users in August

The subscriber base stood at 913.49 million during the previous month, it added.Private operators hold 88.49 percent of the wireless market share based on subscriber base with Airtel, Vodafone and Idea commanding 20.58 percent, 16.88 percent and 12.77 percent respectively.

“The government should be concerned because this is creating a cumulative impact on the industry,” Rajan Mathews, director general, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), told IANS.

“The overall economic climate has deteriorated. The industry has largely been affected by various sorts of charges and stringent norms such as that for VAS services and for activating new subscribers,” he added.

“We are facing huge margin pressure and are trying to cut down on dealer incentives and freebies as the sales and distribution costs have also gone up. This is the way the market is rationalising itself,” a senior telecom executive told IANS, preferring anonymity.

“There has been a decline in actual growth rate,” said the official of another firm, also preferring anonymity.


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