India's telecom subscriber base, mobile and landline combined, touched the 1.18 billion mark at the end of February 2017, growing 1.17 per cent over the previous month, according to regulator Trai.
The market growth was propelled by the addition of 13.75 million mobile users during the month. The demand for once-popular landline phone has been dwindling as the cheap mobile handsets, coupled with falling tariffs and freebies, have led to an explosion in cellphone connectivity.
Over the past few months, operators including newcomer Reliance Jio and incumbents like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone have been doling out attractive offers and unleashing high-decibel marketing campaign to woo customers.
"The number of telephone subscribers in India increased from 1,174.80 million at the end of January 2017 to 1,188.5 million at the end of February 2017, showing a monthly growth rate of 1.17 per cent," as per the data by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai).
The urban connectivity went up to 692.15 million in February-end, from 681.15 million in January-end, a growth of over 1.6 per cent. The pace of growth of rural connectivity was slower at 0.56 per cent. Rural telecom users increased to 496.39 million from 493.65 million during the same period. The Indian telecom market-the second-largest in the world after China in terms of subscriber base-added 13.75 million mobile customers in February.
This pushed up the total mobile subscriber base to 1.16 billion. The wireline connections-which have been losing sheen over the last few years-remained flat with subscriber base stagnant at about 24.35 million.
Lesser number of people sought network port outs in February compared to the previous month. Nearly 5.6 million subscribers submitted requests for mobile number porting in February, compared to 6.24 million placing such request in January this year. "In February 2017, 5.67 million subscribers submitted their requests for mobile number portability (MNP)," Trai said.
With this, the cumulative requests increased from 261.06 million at the end of January 2017 to 266.73 million at the end of February since implementation of this facility nearly seven years ago. Cellular industry body COAI Director General Rajan Mathews believes that the MNP numbers need to be seen in the broader context of the overall subscriber base of India and not on a standalone basis.
"In some markets like the US and Europe, the MNP ratio is nearly 3-5 per cent of the overall base whereas in India, the number is much smaller," he said. The facility of number portability allows mobile subscribers to retain their numbers when they relocate from one service area to another or wish to change their operator.