GSM players add 5.4 mn subscribers in June

At a time when GSM players are riding the cellular boom with the addition of 5.4 million new subscribers in June, public sector BSNL has registered negative growth in five of the 21 telecom circles where it offers services.

Overall, the PSU has added just 4.3 lakh new subscribers in June compared to 1.96 million by Bharti Airtel and 1.54 million by Vodafone-Essar. This also implies that the PSU, which had lost its position as the second largest GSM player in the country to Vodafone Essar in May 2007, has slipped further down. Vodafone Essar now has a total of over 30.75 million subscribers and a market share of 22.61% when compared to 28.42 million and 20.90% for the PSU.

As per the latest data compiled by the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the industry association representing all GSM operators, the GSM subscriber base has touched 136 million as of June end, 2007, up 4.12% when compared to 130.1 million in May 2007.

The growth witnessed in June was lead by Bharti Airtel, which added just under two million new users taking its subscriber base to 42.7 million. Bharti now commands a market share of 31.40% in the GSM space.

Reliance Telecom, the GSM arm of Reliance Communications has also performed poorly — the company, which has 4.34 million subscribers, has failed to show even a single new addition in all the eight circles it operates.

BSNL’s subscriber additions over the last couple of months have been thrown off target as the company has exhausted its capacity in most key circles. The PSU has not undertaken any major expansion contract since October 2005. This has witnessed even regional players like Idea Cellular which has operations in just 11 circles and Aircel Cellular which has operations in 9 circles overtaking the PSU in terms of subscriber addition over the last couple of months.

While BSNL has issued tenders for the supply of over 45 million lines in March 2006, it was so far been unable to place orders for the network equipment. In fact, Idea has added about 0.9 million subscribers last month, which is twice that of BSNL.

Last month, among all circles, Category B circles witnessed the highest rate of growth at nearly 5.0%. Within the Category B circles, the highest growth was recorded by the UP (West) Circle at (6.5%) closely followed by West Bengal and Andaman & Nicobar Circle at (6.1%). Category B circles were closely followed by Category A circles, which recorded a growth of 4.1% over the previous month.

Tamil Nadu Circle recorded the highest growth at (5.3%) followed by Maharashtra at (4.4%), COAI said. Category C circles witnessed a growth of 3.2%. Amongst the Category C circles, Orissa recorded highest growth at (5.4%), followed by H.P. at (3.9%). The subscribers in Metro grew by 3.1% over the previous month. Kolkata recorded the highest growth at (4.1%) followed by Chennai (3.6%), COAI added.