BSNL loses 1.5% of active subscribers due to MNP

BSNL, the former telecom monopoly of India, has lost nearly 8 lakh mobile subscribers, or about 1.5 percent of its active mobile base, due to number portability as of the end of October, government of India’s numbers revealed.

There was also a sudden spike in October this year in the number of telecom subscribers using MNP to switch their operators without losing their phone number. October is the latest month for which MNP data is available.

A total of 5.4 million (54 lakh) subscribers used MNP to change their operators in October. In comparison, in the previous 22 months, only about 70 mln subscribers switched their operators – or an average of 3.1 mln subscribers per month.

State-owned operator BSNL, which used to be India’s biggest operator by revenue as recently as two years ago, has been struggling with rising costs and declining growth. Its net loss is estimated to have risen by about 30% to about Rs 8,851 crore last year.

The company has been left behind in the race for mobile subscribers primarily as a result of poor marketing, bureaucracy and higher tariffs. While most operators offer call rates in the range of 30 paise per minute for a rental of Rs 34-45 per month, BSNL’s tariffs are about 60 paise per minute. It has lagged behind the others in offering special tariff schemes.

BSNL has nearly 12 crore mobile subscribers, but only 54% of them are considered active (and therefore revenue generating) according to VLR data released by the telecom regulator. In addition, the subscribers porting out through mobile number portability are likely to be in the high-spending category.

The MNP loss figures are ‘net’ — after adjusting for the rather modest inflow of subscribers from other operators.

The government said most subscribers are opting out of the state-owned company due to issues like poor network coverage, poor marketing and customer service and higher tariffs.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that Idea Cellular was the biggest gainer from the MNP regime.

However, October, the latest month for which data is available, was a good month for BSNL, which was third in the number of subscribers added during the month. BSNL added nearly 36 lakh net subscribers during the month, beating Idea, which added just 24 lakh subs. It was, however, behind Bharti and Vodafone, which added about 48-49 lakh each.