While more usage of mobile phones may be expected during the Indian lockdown, subscriber acquisitions have not improved. The Indian telecommunications industry has recorded a sharp fall in new subscriber acquisitions during March.
Growth for March has been estimated at 0.5 million (compared to a monthly average of 1.5-3 million). Not surprisingly, with stores remaining shut for days and weeks, this situation is unlikely to improve before 14 April, when the Indian lockdown aimed at limiting the spread of coronavirus is scheduled to end. In particular, conversion from 2G/3G to 4G, which requires a new SIM, is likely to slow considerably.
Instead, as we have reported earlier, many companies are focused on ensuring a reliable and uninterrupted network experience for their customers.
It’s no surprise then that Indian telecommunications industry body the COAI has written to the country’s finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman seeking urgent relief measures, including lowering of levies with immediate effect, and noting what it calls the ‘critical role’ operators are playing in addressing the challenges faced by individuals, corporates, governance services, emergency serices and utility services.
The industry body has sought a cut in spectrum usage charges of three per cent for all operators. It added that licence fee contributions should be immediately brought down to three per cent from eight per cent. The COAI wishlist also focused on measures to help liquidity, and the exemption of the levy of GST on licence fees, spectrum usage charges and payment of spectrum acquired in auctions.
COAI members include the big three Indian operators Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea.