India mobile customer numbers fall again in February

The number of mobile customers in India fell by 0.11% in February, to 861.66 million, according to new figures from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

The country has now lost more than 100 million mobile customers since June last year, but the rate of decline has slowed from 2.8% in December and 0.26% in January.

The TRAI has blamed the losses on disconnections of so-called ‘inactive’ accounts by the country’s operators.

Aiming to curb the practice, authorities have forbidden the disconnection of customers unless they have not used services for at least 90 consecutive days and have available credit of less than INR20 ($0.40).

“The decline in the wireless subscriber base, which has been witnessed since July 2012 primarily due to disconnection of inactive mobile subscribers by the telecom service providers, has become gradually less,” said the TRAI in a statement.

Only the country’s leading five operators managed to grow their customer bases during the recent quarter.

Idea Cellular (Mumbai, India) – the country’s fourth-biggest player – reported the most impressive growth, adding 2.89 million customers, while Bharti Airtel (New Delhi, India) signed up another 2.43 million and Vodafone (Mumbai, India) captured 2.19 million.

Reliance (Mumbai, India) and state-owned BSNL (New Delhi, India) made up the group, with 1.64 million and 430,000 additions respectively.

The biggest setback was registered by Unitech (Gurgaon, India), which lost 8.35 million customers when it had licenses rescinded by Indian authorities and was forced to shut down most of its operations.

The TRAI also said that the share of mobile customers living in urban areas fell to 60.5% from 61.31% last quarter, as operators continue to extend their activities into rural communities.

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