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GSM Operators Add 5.3M Subscribers In August, Lowest Since May 2007

Indian GSM mobile operators have added 5.3 million new subscribers in August as compared to 7.65 million in the July, taking the total GSM users base to 611.75 million at the end of last month, according to data released today by industry association Cellular Operators Association of India.

The GSM operators continued to suffer a drop in new subscribers for the third consecutive month this year with the net addition falling to the lowest level in over four years.

Last time the net addition in a month was as low as this was in May 2007. This shows clearly that growth has peaked out in the mobile telephony space atleast in terms of subscriber base after fast paced action for the last three years.

Telcos, who have been facing margin pressure for over a year now, have been banking on new subscribers. While they have started increasing tariffs to shore up profits, slowdown in new users may yet affect their revenues going forward. Telecom is one of the biggest sectors in India attracting huge quantum of private equity investments in the past decade.

Among the operators, market leader Bharti Airtel added 1.15 million subscribers in August taking its total subscriber base to 171.84 million, with a market share of 28.09 per cent. Nearest rival, Vodafone added 1.13 million taking its total subscriber base to 144.14 million, with a market share of 23.56 per cent.

Number three in the GSM market is Idea Cellular with a market share of 16.09 percent and a total subscriber base of 98.4 million. Idea, which is backed by PE giant Providence, added 2.3 million new customers in the month.

State-owned telcos BSNL and MTNL added 388,057 and 32,932 new users, respectively, taking their subscriber base to 90.62 million and 5.29 million.

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