The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) has, in its monthly report, projected the telecom subscriber base in the country to reach 1,042 million users by the end of the fiscal year. The report, and the growth projection comes just days after a Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) report  revealed that the telecom subscriber base in the country has declined for the first time. 

According to the TRAI report, the number of telephone subscribers in India fell to 944.81 million at the end of July 2012, registering a negative growth rate of -2.14 percent. Interestingly, the share of urban subscribers declined to 63.83 percent from 64.40 percent, while that of rural subscribers increased to 36.17 percent in the month of July 2012. 

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Over a billion subscribers by March 2013 (Image credit: Getty Images)

Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular, put together account for roughly 68 percent of the GSM market and in the review period, they lost over 5.10 million users. Bharti Airtel has a 27.82 percent market share, and in the review period, lost 1.90 million users making its subscriber base fall to 186.9 million. 

Going further, the report found that Idea Cellular and Vodafone, two other popular players in the market lost 1.64 million users and 1.55 million users, respectively. With this, Idea Cellular's subscriber base stood at 115.97 million, while that of Vodafone was at 153.35 million at the end of August 2012. 

As per the figures, Aircel and Loop Mobile emerged as the only operators to have witnessed growth in the review period. While Aircel added 793,717 new users, Loop Mobile added 79,842 new subscribers in August 2012. Uninor, on the other hand, as per the figures in the report saw the sharpest decline of 2.38 million users, and its subscriber base now stands at 42.11 million at the end of August 2012.

At the time, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) stated that, “Most of the loss was due to the disconnection of unused numbers.” CMIE in its report has added further that, “However, the new wireless subscribers for the fiscal are likely to decline by nearly 14 per cent.”

“Wireless service providers are expected to add 92.7 million new subscribers this fiscal, significantly lower than the 107.6 million they added in FY12,” it added. Importantly, here it pointed at the implementation of mobile number portability (MNP) scheme as one of the reasons for declining new subscriber additions. “The total MNP requests at the end of June 2012 stood at 54.3 million. We expect the number of subscribers opting for MNP to rise further in the coming months. This in turn would impact new subscriber additions. While the urban areas of the country are over penetrated with tele-density of 169 per cent, in rural areas it is just 40.6 per cent. Hence, these areas hold an opportunity for telecom operators to increase their subscriber base and grow their market share.”

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