Wireless subscriber growth in rural India touched a 15-month high in September 2019 with a net addition of 6.31 million subscribers. This is opposed to a fall in the net addition of wireless subscribers to 0.19 million in rural areas in the previous month. As per the recent telecom subscription data released by TRAI on Tuesday, net addition in mobile or wireless subscribers in urban areas reduced for the first time since April 2019, contracting 3.56 million in September 2019. In the first half of the current fiscal, net addition in rural wireless subscribers dropped in April, May and August translating into an overall net addition of 3.24 million. However, with just one contraction during this period, the overall net addition in mobile subscribers in urban areas jumped more than two times its rural counterparts to 8.7 million in H1FY20.
Total wireless subscribers (GSM, CDMA & LTE) increased from 1,171 million at the end of August 2019 to 1,173.75 million at the end of September 2019, thereby registering a monthly growth rate of 0.23 per cent. Wireless subscription in urban areas declined from 662.74 million as on August 2019 to 659.18 million at the end of September. In rural areas, it increased from 508.25 million to 514.56 million, during the period. This has converted into monthly growth rates of -0.54 per cent and 1.24 per cent, respectively. While monthly growth rates of rural subscriber base improved in September, it has been falling year-on-year since June 2019. During H1FY20, the wireless subscription in urban areas has been growing on a year-on-year basis.
This comes at a time when retail price inflation for rural labourers, measured by CPI-RL, increased to 7.2 per cent in September from 6.2 per cent in the previous month. Retail inflation for agricultural labourers, measured by CPI-AL, rose to 7.3 per cent in September 2019 compared to 6.4 per cent in August 2019.
Signalling the sluggishness in the economy, India's index of industrial production (IIP) showed its weakest performance in seven years by contracting 4.3 per cent in September, due to output decline in manufacturing (3.9 per cent), mining & quarrying (8.5 per cent) and electricity (2.6 per cent) index. The component of manufacturing index, computer, electronic and optical products, with a weightage of 1.57 per cent in IIP, a proxy for consumer electronics demand, shrunk 10.6 per cent in September. Growth in rural subscribers base may not be strictly construed from the fact that within the manufacturing index, telephones and mobile instruments have been growing for the last eight months - it grew at 16.4 per cent y-o-y in September. Watches, scientific/ digital and special purpose were the only categories under computer and electronics that had been growing for many months.
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