Internet Gag Fallout: Depleting Mobile Subscribers

  • Saqib Malik
  • Publish Date: Jan 5 2017 8:10PM
  • |
  • Updated Date: Jan 5 2017 8:10PM
Internet Gag Fallout: Depleting Mobile SubscribersRepresentational Pic

The communication gag of more than five month long unrest has badly hit the mobile subscriber base in J&K. The state has been pushed to the bottom spot in terms of new mobile subscribers added by service providers to their existing customers.

As per data obtained from Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), J&K registered a degrowth of -0.60 in September when both pre-paid and post-paid services of private telecom companies were suspended by authorities except that of post-paid connections of state owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL).

Interestingly, prior to the unrest, J&K topped the list of new mobile connections during May, with a monthly growth of 1.63 percent, and stood at second spot in June with a growth of 1.52 per cent. The degrowth in new mobile subscribers began after killing of Hizb Commander Burhan Wani onJuly 8.

As per the latest data available with TRAI, total mobile subscriber base in the state in September stood at 9573852, which is a drop of 58019 connections as compared to August. In terms of company wise subscriber data, Bharti had 30,72,866 subscribers, Reliance 96,63,07, Vodafone 83,13,43, Idea 43,99,38, Aircel 27,32,907, BSNL 14,47,703 and Reliance Jio,  which launched its operations in September, had 82,788 subscribers. 

The bulk of the erosion in mobile customer base in the state has taken place from the pre-paid users as according to Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the pre-paid mobile users formed 92.73 per cent of the total subscribers in June this year.

According to COAI, an approximate loss of about Rs 2 crore per day was suffered by the telecom sector in the state during the unrest which made the losses for 90 days of complete communication gag to be around Rs 180 crore.

“Suspension of both calling facility and mobile internet services have hit the revenue adversely,” said Rajan S Mathews, Director General, COAI.

Mathews said availing additional mobile connection is a process in J&K which requires due diligence and that often proves to be a bottleneck. “COAI has requested the central government to resolve the challenge of mandatory 10 days wait for getting additional mobile connections in the state,” said Matthews. “Also roaming services to be allowed to millions of pre-paid customers in J&K and others travelling to J&K with necessary checks and balances in place is a point we have raised.”

Landline Boom

While the scenario of mobile connections has been grim during the unrest, the landline or fixed connections saw a boom. State owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) witnessed almost an increase of more than 1500 connections during September, which meant almost 10,000 to 15,000 new landline connections were rolled out during the period of the unrest, especially from July to September.

Muhammad Saleem Beg, General Manager, Kashmir, BSNL, said the demand for Broadband internet automatically spurred demand for landline connections as well.  “We even served people during the floods and same was the case during the unrest. With only BSNL operational for several months, we had to meet a huge demand and even faced some constraints during this time,” Beg said. “To ensure that employees come to work and services are not hampered was the first priority and of course we kept providing new connections."

However, sources said, “red tapism” proved to be a hurdle for BSNL to convert a suitable opportunity to boost its revenues. People privy to developments at BSNL said post-paid SIM cards were issued to only a favoured few while some BSNL employees sold SIM cards for double and even triple its price. 

“The most common excuse from BSNL is unavailability of ports for new Broadband connections. Also limited manpower with BSNL and a solo window at its headquarters in the city center proved to be a matter of inconvenience for the subscribers,” said Mushtaq Ahmad, a BSNL subscriber.

The mobile service provider market in the state recently saw entry of Reliance Jio which has proved to be a game changer. While the present subscription data figures for J&K specifically are not available with the company, Jio is quite optimistic about its prospects in the state in the days to come. The company also announced the launch of ‘Jio Happy New Year Offer (“JNO”)’ which will help woo subscribers to a great extent. 

As per Jio statement, all the Jio subscribers will be entitled to certain special benefits under the JNO, which shall comprise of Jio’s Data, Voice, Video and the full bouquet of Jio applications and content, absolutely free, up to 31 March 2017. “During this offer period, Jio and Jio customers, will be able to continue the journey of co-creating and building the best network experience together,” the statement said.   

Mobile subscribers in J&K as of September 2016 (Source TRAI)

 Bharti 30,72,866

 Reliance 96,63,07

 Vodafone 83,13,43

 Idea 43,99,38,

 Aircel 27,32,907,

 BSNL 14,47,703

 Reliance Jio 82,788 (launched its operations in September) 


Rise and Fall of Mobile Service Market in J&K, 2016

 1) May, monthly growth of 1.63 per cent - Ranked No 1

 2) Stood at second spot in June with a growth of 1.52 per cent - Ranked No 2

 3) Dropped to last spot in September with -0.60 degrowth