NEW DELHI: Bharti Airtel Ltd and Vodafone Idea Ltd lost 4.7 million subscribers each in May, while Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd added 3.7 million users in the same month, according to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) data released on Wednesday.
The number of wireless subscribers, including 2G, 3G and 4G, declined 0.5% in May, amid the massive migration of workers from urban to rural areas due to covid-19 led lockdown.
According to Trai, total wireless subscription decreased by a whopping 5.61 million in May. In urban areas, the number of wireless users fell from 629 million at the end of April to 620 million as of 31 May, while it increased in rural areas from 520 million in April to 523 as of 31 May. This led to a 0.70% monthly growth in rural wireless subscriptions, Trai said.
The decline in the number of subscribers in May follows the trend in April, which witnessed a loss of 8.2 million subscribers. According to analysts, telecom operators have lost subscribers in the June quarter due to massive shift of population from urban to rural areas, job losses, and deactivation by those having multiple SIM cards, as a result of the covid-19 related restrictions.
Besides Jio, state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) added 201,593 subscribers in May, Trai data showed.
Trai recorded 2.98 million users who requested for mobile number portability (MNP) in May. “With this, the cumulative MNP requests increased from 488.23 million at the end of Apr-20 to 491.21 million at the end of May-20, since implementation of MNP,” Trai said.
India’s landline network also lost subscribers during May. Total fixed-line subscribers decreased from 19.9 million at the end of April to 19.77 million as of 31 May. The government has been trying to push for robust fixed-line infrastructure that will speed up connectivity and enable 4G services in remote areas of the country.
Trai chair RS Sharma last week said the country needs to ramp up its broadband infrastructure as wireless networks still have issues of “reliability and continuity”. The government should use cable television networks to build broadband infrastructure, he added.
Sharma said data consumption has soared due to covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns, which has also revealed the gaps in services and challenges in connectivity.
“Covid-19 demonstrated the difficulty of connectivity as well as the ongoing challenge of coverage service gaps in prime areas. Very small aperture terminals can be used to provide the backhaul connectivity for mobile networks so as to connect the unconnected areas,” he said.