LiveMint – one of the leading business newspaper in India carried an editorial article on December 10, 2010 titled – “Dialling the Wrong Numbers” which concluded or implied that India’s Cell Phone subscriber base may be on decline. Their inference on this seem to have been drawn from the recent press release from Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Telecom Subscriber Data (PDF link). LiveMint writes and I quote the following paragraph from the article –
According to Visitor Location Register data published by TRAI, only 70% of mobile phone connections were active at the end of September; i.e. out of 688 million subscribers, only 482 million were live on 30 September (2010).
When I read this – I instinctively felt that something was not right with this reporting from LiveMint. A drop of 30% decline in active subscribers (and that too within a month) should have started fire alarm bells ringing in the Mobile Service Providers – especially considering that they are currently getting challenged from the perspective of extracting more $/subscriber. So I took upon myself to decipher the data from the TRAI press release. My suspicions of misleading reporting from LiveMint came to be true.
Per the TRAI press release the news in terms of count of subscriber base seems to be quite contrary. The wireless subscriber base in India increased by the routine 2.39%. India at the end of November 2010 had 688M wireless subscribers. The number 482M which LiveMint quotes is about Visitor Location Register (VLR) – this number is about tracking the user in a particular coverage area. This however is not about whether the subscriber is permanently active or not. (I have sent an email to the Editors of LiveMint for the clarification. Hopefully they will respond to that)
While we are on this topic – I just feel that the way TRAI calculates the tele-density seems to be very misleading. At the end of September 2010, the wireless tele-density in India seemed to be at 61%. For me this means that for 100 individuals, 61 of them would have access to wireless device. This just seems to be incorrect. Indians have a very unique habit of carrying multiple cell phones and with the advent dual/multiple SIM handsets – the whole definition of tele-density from a wireless perspective does not make any sense to me. (The same LiveMint article linked above mentioned that a report from KPMG indicates that 40% of all new cell phones sold in India would be Dual-SIM card phones. Not too sure if this is a correct number. Did not see a validation of the same anywhere else)
Thoughts and/or comments are welcome.