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Mobile subscriber addition seen lower at 0.5 million in March: Experts

The subscriber addition tally for mobile operators is estimated to have tanked to 0.5 million in March against a monthly average of 1.5-3 million on account of coronavirus-led lockdowns, according to industry experts.

Sector observers said the situation is likely to continue this month as all-India lockdown is scheduled to be in place till April 14.

Many states had already started imposing movement restrictions for general public to combat the spread of coronavirus by mid-March. The 21-day nationwide lockdown was announced on March 24.

Experts said the lockdowns and curbs pulled down the fresh SIM connections for the month.

Accordingly, the industry has recorded a sharp fall in new subscriber acquisitions during March – with estimates putting new additions at a mere 0.5 million for all operators combined against the monthly average of 1.5-3 million seen otherwise.

A senior official working with a telecom company said that new subscriber additions for March were down to a trickle as stores remained shut for days and weeks.

Instead, companies turned their focus to ensuring uninterrupted network experience for customers.

In its note on Friday, Axis Capital asserted that subscriber addition will be hit, as lockdown in the wake of Covid-19 will sharply pull down subscriber adds, given that people mostly remained at home and shops were closed.

“Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) expects subscriber addition of less than 1 million in March 2020 versus average of 3 million per month. Subscriber addition to be hit for most of Q1FY21 due to 21-day lockdown and possibility of restrictions/ partial restrictions getting extended,” Axis Capital said.

Also, conversion from 2G/3G to 4G may be hit as it requires new SIM, “which is difficult in a lockdown”, it said.

“These may partially impact revenue growth that was expected in nine months of calendar 2020 from the tariff hike taken in December 2019. Accordingly, we have trimmed our revenue estimates for wireless telcos,” it said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on March 24, had announced a complete lockdown of the entire country for 21 days in an unprecedented move to try halt the spread of coronavirus, shortly after which the Centre said road, rail and air services will remain suspended during this period.

As on early Friday, the pandemic had claimed 56 lives in the country and number of Covid-19 cases had increased to 2,301 in India.

―The Hindu Business Line

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