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Broadband Subscription Growth Skidding; 4.3M Mobile Users Switch Cellular Operator In February

India added 1.2 lakh new broadband subscribers in the month of February (same number added in January but less than the average of 1.6 lakh in previous two months) to take the total user base of high speed Internet to 13.54 million, according to the latest report released by telecom regulator.

According to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), there has been a growth of 0.87 per cent in February over the previous month (January 2012).

This shows growth is sputtering for broadband penetration in India which could be of concern for new generation tech companies who are forming business growth projections over how fast Indians adopt fast paced Internet. On the flip-side, this could be hiding another big statistics as increasingly consumers are using Internet on the go. Even though Internet speed over the mobile is yet to receive great reviews (despite 3G), mobile Internet could well be the game changer for tech firms.

Mobile Subscribers

Meanwhile, the total wireless mobile subscriber base has risen from 903.73 million at the end of January to 911.17 million in February, registering a growth of 0.82 per cent.

What we found interesting is the see saw in numbers for Tata Tele. The firm which recorded massive disconnections of 4.4 million in November only to bounce back partly in December has once again seen a number of users switch off or out of the network. The telco saw 1.8 million or over 2 per cent of its users move out of the network in February.

As per TRAI's data, Tata Tele lost over 0.5 million users in Mumbai and Maharashtra circles in February. It also lost large chunk of users in Delhi and Gujarat among other circles. We wonder if this has anything to do with a brand rejig. The first sharp downward swing in user base came right after the company said it will offer one common brand- Tata Docomo cutting across the CDMA and GSM platforms (which meant Tata Docomo moves into the CDMA space and all the existing Tata Indicom customers to migrate to Tata Docomo).

The only other telco which lost users was Etisalat, a late entrant in Indian telecom business which is one of the main firms to be affected by the Supreme Court ruling to cancel all new 2G telecom licenses over alleged scam. Etisalat lost over half of its users in one month alone.

This was even as few other telcos continued to see user addition despite an uncertain future in India. For instance, Uninor added 2.3 million new users in February second only to Idea Cellular which added 2.5 million.

Active Mobile Users:

Of the total wireless user base in India, around three fourth are active subscribers. Out of the total 911.17 million subscribers, 670.65 million were active on the date of Peak VLR for the month of February. The proportion of VLR subscribers is approximately 73.6 per cent of the total wireless subscriber base reported by the service providers.

Circle-wise, J&K has the highest proportion of VLR subscribers with 82.81 per cent followed by Assam (82.13 per cent) and Madhya Pradesh (80.55 per cent); Mumbai has the lowest proportion with 63.74 per cent.

Service provider wise, Idea leads the tally with 92.9 per cent followed by Bharti (91.88 per cent); S Tel is at the bottom with 28.53 per cent. This means the report found just about one in four of Etisalat subscribers are actively using their number.

Mobile Number Portability:

The TRAI report also reveals (based on the data submitted by service providers by the end of February) about 3.71 crore subscribers have submitted requests for porting their mobile number with December alone witnessing a submission of 43.2 lakh requests for changing service provider while retaining the number.

The average mobile number portability (MNP) requests have been around 25 lakh in late 2011 and in November it crossed the 26 lakh number for the first time. The February mark is an all-time high translating into one in every 210 mobile users in the country switching their operator in a month.

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