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Telcos net user adds likely to have dropped to around 5 lakhs combined in March

Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea are expected to have added just half a million subscribers cumulatively in March, a sharp fall from the monthly average of upto 3 million additions in a good month, as the Covid-19 induced lockdowns take a toll, say industry players and analysts.

They add that with no footfalls in stores and barely any mobile number portability (MNP) on, user addition numbers will remain around the sharply reduced levels for April too.

“Usually, anywhere from 2.5 to 3 million net adds could be expected on an average every month. With the emergency conditions in place, operators may find it difficult to add half a million net adds in each of the months of March and April,” said a senior industry executive who did not wish to be named,

Another senior official in one of the telcos said that since the three-week lockdown was announced, they have closed their stores and all MNP activity has almost halted since there are no officers to coordinate between the telcos and the customers and the MNP providers.

“Right now, if the sector manages to get half a million net adds this month and in the next one, we will be fortunate. All efforts are focussed to ensure the networks stays up,” said a senior official of a telecom major. “Whatever little additions we saw before March 21 in smaller towns stopped as well”.

At the end of December, Vodafone Idea had 304 million customers, Jio had 370 million, and Bharti Airtel 283 million. The three telcos did not respond to ET’s queries.

Another reason for the fall in subscribers is because of the slowdown in MNP. “There has been a 95% drop in portability requests from the couple of millions that the two companies would get per month. There are no office staff so work on that has almost halted, ” said a senior executive aware of the lags in MNP during lockdown.

Retailers say their numbers are now down to zero and it will be a while before business picks up.

“If you want to quantify the fall, call it 100%, because the stores are shut and sale of SIM card is zero,” said a Delhi-based retailer.

Stricter KYC (Know Your Customer) norms issued by the telecom department in 2018, which mandate physical verification and in-store live photo of the user, have taken a hit at both sale of SIM card and execution of MNP requests, retailers say. Before this directive, a user could get a SIM by sharing his ID proof from his phone.

“Normally, before the lockdown, I could sell 30-40 SIM cards per month for Airtel and Jio each. If I sold more than 50, I would get an incentive of Rs 30 per SIM sold that month,” said Yatin Gulati, a store manager in Delhi-NCR.

“But with the given KYC requirements, neither a new issue nor an MNP request can be executed remotely,” he added.

―Gadgets Now

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