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RCom lost 23% of its active subscribers in five months, going by VLR data

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TRAI data has finally confirmed what we had first reported two months ago — RCom lost the vast majority of its CDMA subscribers when it forced them to migrate to 4G five months ago.

Out of around 101 mln RCom subscribers at the time, about 24 mln are estimated to have been on CDMA technology.

Though RCom claimed that the ‘upgrade’ from CDMA to 4G was proceeding smoothly, the ‘VLR’ numbers — which show the proportion of ‘switched on’ users in a network — painted a different picture.

On a ‘switched on’ (VLR) basis, RCom had 92.2 mln subscribers at the end of March, while it had only 70.9 mln at the end of August — a fall of 21.3 mln or 23%.

This indicates a worsening of the situation from June end, when it had 71.6 mln switched-on users.

This may be explained by the fact that it had completed the switch-over from CDMA to 4G by end of June and had offered some limited-time free data benefits to the new migrants, which may have kept some of them on the network in the immediate aftermath.

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Before writing off inactive users, RCom has been trying to see if users who upgrade to 4G by swapping their SIM cards would switch on the new connection or not. This has led to a steep decline in the percentage of active or switched on users on the company’s network.

For example, from May-end to June-end, there was a drop of around 19 mln users in RCom’s VLR subscribers, while the official subscriber number decreased only by 2.7 mln.

This suggests that Reliance Communications was not willing to write off the ‘upgraders’ even if they were not using their new 4G connection.

Instead, it was hoping that they would eventually buy a 4G handset or at least a GSM handset, and start using the new SIM.

However, going by the ‘write offs’ taking place since then, not many are coming back.

The Anil Ambani reported a net decline of 3.2 mln subscribers in July and another 8.5 mln reduction in August.

Since it has 87.1 mln subscribers on its books and only 70.9 mln on its network VLR, it will have to strike off another 8.5 mln users from its books to reach the pre-upgrade VLR level of 90%.

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