The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has set the cat among the pigeons with its recent finding that only 70 per cent of mobile subscribers were 'active' as of 30 September. Apart from belying the much-reported figures of India's mobile telephony growth, the TRAI report has also re-ignited the simmering war between GSM and CDMA operators.
According to TRAI, out of India's wireless subscribers were 687.71 million, but only 70 per cent or 482.89 million are active. It further found that new entrants Sistema Shyam, S Tel, Unitech, Loop, Videocon, and Etisalat have the least active subscribers - and even the Tatas' telecom entities are lagging, with just 44 per cent of CDMA subscribers and 46.2 per cent of GSM users actually using their services.
This is the first time the telecoms regulator has released the percentage of active customers on operator networks.
Established GSM operators like Bharti Airtel and Idea, with a higher percentage of active subscribers, look good in comparison.
Prompt to react to the findings, Bharti Airtel said on Monday, "The first-ever 'visitor location register' report, which captures the number of active customers on mobile networks, nails the canards and lies spread by a particular set of telecom operators, which falsely alleged that established and performing GSM operators have been reporting inflated customer numbers.'' It added that 90 per cent of its customers were active.
Idea on its part claimed that 88 per cent of its customers were active. Both companies said that they welcomed TRAI's move to capture real, active user base.
Fortuitously, the TRAI findings come in the midst of allegations by Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata that GSM operators are 'hoarding spectrum'. The GSM-based companies have now riposted by accusing dual-technology licence holders Tata Telecom and Reliance Communications – which operate on both GSM and CDMA platforms - of inflating their customer numbers.