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Why You Shouldn’t Read Too Much Into COAI’s August 2011 GSM Mobile Data Yet

The Cellular Operators Association of India (which includes most of India’s GSM telecom operators), has reported an increase of 5.33 million GSM connections in August 2011 as compared to 7.64 million in the previous month. While the connection growth was 0.88%, the net additions reported declined by as much as 30.2% month on month. However, until the TRAI’s report on subscriber additions is out, we don’t think you should read too much into this data yet. Here’s why:

1. The COAI data doesn’t represent the entire GSM Mobile industry in India: it does not include Tata Docomo and Reliance Communications’ GSM base. Given that many COAI members (Airtel, Idea) announced a call rate hike, sign-ups could have switched to Tata Docomo and RCOM. Wait for the TRAI report for a more comprehensive picture of the GSM base.

2. The older data wasn’t representative of a true market conditions: The last year or so had seen net additions in the range of 12-20 million connections a month, but that included multi-SIM usage, and connections were (and still are) being reported as ‘subscribers’. So, just that people aren’t buying extra SIMs should not be a cause for concern. A decline in minutes of use or revenue for the industry would be more worrying.

3. Rationalization & Standardization In Reporting? It could also be that more subscribers have been churned out, with some operators now not reporting dormant SIMs over a longer period of time. As we’ve seen from the TRAI’s VLR/Active user data, many operators had inactive users. For example, only 53% of BSNLs base was active. Perhaps this will be rationalized over a few months to give a more accurate picture. This is a good thing, but keep in mind that they will still be reporting active connections not users, hence not taking into account multi-SIM ownership. This is why we report these numbers as ‘connections’, not ‘subscribers’.

Also, keep in mind the opposite – maybe there is a decline, which will be evident in the TRAI’s report. That’s why we’re saying – don’t read too much into it yet.

GSM operator and circle-wise data (excluding Reliance and Tata):

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– Idea Cellular, added 2.33 million connection its base is 98.44 million.
– Bharti Airtel, added 1.15 million in August; its connection base is now 171.84 million.
– Vodafone, added 1.13 million connection its base is 144.14 million.
– Aircel added 602,312 connection its base is 59 million.
– BSNL and MTNL added 388057 and 32932 connection in August ; its connection base is now 90.62 million and 5.29 million.

– Among metro circles, Delhi added 406,428 GSM connections, with Chennai adding 73,129 GSM connections.

Download: GSM Data from COAI (.xls file)


July 2011: India Added Over 7.64 Million GSM Connections
– June 2011: India Added over 8.58 Million GSM Connections
 May 2011: India Added over 9.53 Million GSM Connections
– April 2011: India Added over 11.10 Million GSM Connections
– March 2011:India Added Over 14.49M GSM Connections
– Feb 2011: India Added Over 14.69M GSM Connections
– Jan 2011: India Added Over 13M GSM Connections

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