Indians are talking more but paying less. While minutes of usage for cellular services increased by 45 per cent from 222 minutes per month per subscriber in March 2003 to 322 minutes in March 2004, the average revenue per user declined 19 per cent from Rs 537 per month to Rs 436 during the one-year period.
According to the performance report for the telecom sector released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the revenues declined owing to a 28 per cent reduction in tariffs from an average of 64 paise a minute to 44 paise a minute. What may come as good news for operators is that the share of pre-paid subscribers has declined by 2.7 per cent to 75 per cent at the end of March 2004.
The post-paid subscriber base, which contributes more to the operator's kitty, has witnessed a faster growth at 23 per cent in mobile services. The average revenue from post-paid subscribers stood at Rs 930 a month which is three times than that of the revenues from pre-paid users.
In the fixed line segment, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) have a 72 per cent and a nine per cent market share, respectively. However, the share of private operators increased by two per cent during the quarter January-March 2004. The overall percentage of growth in subscriber base during the quarter was 4.11 per cent, which is lower compared to 4.61 per cent growth recorded in the previous year.
BSNL and MTNL have, however, outdone the private operators when it comes to revenue per subscriber for cellular services. While BSNL and MTNL's average revenue per month for cellular services during the quarter ending March 2004 was Rs 453, for the private operators it was Rs 431.
In the Internet services segment, BSNL retained its top position and reported a subscriber base of 11,28,172 at the end of March 2004 against 10,04,246 during the last quarter. The Internet subscriber base touched 45.49 lakh as on quarter ending March 31, 2004, as compared to 36 lakh during the previous year.
On the quality of services, TRAI noted that though the operators have improved as compared to the previous quarter, much needs to be done on various parameters like fault repairing.