Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Market Update for India

We think of India as having one of the fast growing mobile market in the world. There is a huge population of unconnected or under connected citizens with a strong desire to join the online economy. Most likely, that connection will be mobile broadband.

While India does indeed have the faster growing mobile operator—Reliance Jio, which zoomed from zero to 160 million in only 16 month (for comparison, Verizon has 116.3 million retail connections) – the nation is shrinking month by month in terms of total mobile lines in operation.

How can this be? One aspect of the Indian market is that SIM cards are relatively cheap, and monthly service plans are also inexpensive.  Even for high-flying Reliance Jio, the average revenue per user (ARPU) per month is only 154 rupees (approximately $2.41).  On top of this, most users are enrolled in pre-paid plans. There is also the aggressive promotions whereby operators make great offers just to more SIM cards activated. As a result, many people with financial means will pick up multiple mobile phones and SIM cards, never bothering to cancel them is the ongoing maintenance cost is low enough.

This tends to distort the reported figures for market growth and gives us an unreliable picture of the relative strengths of each operator.

A consolidation is certainly underway. Of India’s twelve mobile operators, only five gained subscribers while seven operators experience declines. The winners are Bharti, Vodafone, Idea, Reliance Jio and BSNL. The losers are Aircel, Reliance, Tata, Telenor, MTNL, Sistema, and Quadrant.

The total number of wireless subscribers (GSM, CDMA & LTE) in India dipped for a second quarter in a row in Q3 2017 to 1,183.04 million, down from from 1,186.79 million at the end of Jul-17, according to the latest figures compiled by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) . Urban subscribers numbered 684.77 million compared to 498.28 million rural subscribers. Wireless teledensity declined from 92.12 at the end of Jun-17 to 91.56 at the end of Sep-17.

Some metrics:

  • Monthly ARPU GSM Full Mobility Service including LTE – 84 rupees
  • Monthly ARPU CDMA Full Mobility Service – 125 rupees
  • Minutes of Usage (MOU) per subscriber per month - GSM Full Mobility Service including LTE - 437
  • Total Outgoing Minutes of Usage for Internet Telephony – 283 million
  • Average Data Usage per subscriber per month – GSM (2G+3G+4G) - 1,610 MB
  • Average outgo per GB data for GSM including LTE (2G+3G+4G) – 21.22 rupees
  • Gross revenue for telecom operators in India (mobile and fixed) rose by 2.27%. The government statistics show that monthly Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) for Access Services was 88.09 rupees (US$1.37) as of 30-September-2017.
  • Not surprisingly, the number of wireline subscribers declined from 24.00 million at the end of Jun-17 to 23.67 million at the end of Sep-17 with quarterly decline rate of 1.37%.  However, it is strange that the number of Internet subscribers declined from 431.21 million at the end of Jun-17 to 429.23 million at the end of Sep-17, registering a quarterly growth rate of -0.46%.

See also