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CDMA services lose market share as telcos shift focus to 4G

CDMA services in India are slowly being phased out. The three existing CDMA operators (Tata Docomo, MTS, BSNL) in the country are showing signs of a slowdown in terms of subscriber growth. Between a three-month period from September to December 2016, Tata Docomo lost 1.02 million CDMA connections, MTS lost 0.84 million connections, while BSNL lost 0.04 million connections.

As per TRAI data, there were 15.07 million CDMA connections in December 2016, down 11% from September ’16 when India had 16.97 million CDMA connections. On the other hand, GSM connections (including LTE) increased to 1.11 billion in December ’16, up 7.7% from 1.03 billion connections in September ’16.

The falling number of CDMA subscribers in India is not unexpected. After the launch of Reliance Jio, a 4G only operator in 22 circles, rival telcos are increasingly focusing on 4G expansion, leading to a cut down on CDMA and 2G services. Anil Amabni-led RCOM recently shut down its profitable CDMA business, in order to focus on 4G. RCOM is also expected to merge MTS’s customers with itself in the coming months. Airtel, Idea and Vodafone are also investing money to expand their 4G networks.

Share of connections by access type

The wireless segment held a 97.88% market share in terms of connections with 1.12 billion connections, while the wireline segment held rest of the share with 24.4 million connections by the end of December 2016.

In the Wireless segment (CDMA+ LTE + GSM), Reliance Jio added 56.18 million new subscribers between Sep-16 to Dec-16. This is significantly higher than the additions among the top three telcos (Airtel, Vodafone, Idea). Airtel added 5.91 million connections, Vodafone added 3.97 million connections, while Idea added 11.70 million connections.

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The Wireline segment had 8 different operators, out of which only 4 operators added new subscribers between Sep-16 to Dec-16. These include Airtel which added 33,000 connections, MTNL added 18,000 connections, Vodafone added 15,000 connections, while ACT added 2,000 connections. Rest of the operators either lost subscribers or added no subscribers at all.

Share of Internet users by operator

According to TRAI data, the total number of Internet users (wired+wireless) in India stood at 391.5 million in December ’16. Bharti Airtel had the most number of Internet users (84.8 million) with a 21.67% market share. This was closely followed by Reliance Jio with 72.1 million subscribers, and Vodafone with 56.05 million subscribers. Note that the top three operators held more than half of the market with 56.72% market share.

In the wired segment, BSNL held a 61.13% market share with 13.15 million subscribers, followed by Airtel with 2.04 million subscribers. Total number of wired internet users stood at 21.51 million at the end of December ’16. In the wireless segment, Airtel held a 22.38% market share with 82.79 million subscribers followed by Reliance Jio with 72.16 million internet subscribers at the Dec 2016. Total number of wireless internet users stood at 369.9 million at the end of December 16.

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