In a first, telecom firms lose customers in state

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In the last one year, telecom operators in Gujarat lost over 26,000 mobile customers overall.

This is perhaps the first time the telecom industry has seen a drop in the number of GSM subscribers in the state.

Over the past several years, the number of subscribers in Gujarat have risen in lakhs. However, between April 2012 and March 2013, telecom operators in the state, including leader Vodafone, Videocon and Aircel, ended up losing a sizeable number of subscribers, though some like Uninor saw their subscriber base swell by huge numbers.

The data published by industry body, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), show that Vodafone ended up losing over a lakh customers in the 2012-13. This is in sharp contrast to the impressive 16 lakh-plus subscribers the company had added in the fiscal year 2011-12, when the GSM subscriber base in Gujarat grew by 47 lakh in just one year.

Similar has been the case with Videocon and Aircel. Videocon, which had over 13 lakh subscribers in April 2012, lost 7.5 lakh customers by March 2013. Aircel was left with just 1.8 lakh subscribers in March 2013, compared to 7 lakh subscribers it had a year ago.

Both Videocon and Vodafone chose not to respond to the questions regarding the drop in their subscriber numbers. The biggest gainer during the lacklustre year has been Uninor, which gained 11 lakh customers. The operator ended the fiscal year 2012-13 with over 49 lakh customers.

"We have chosen to focus on the services that the mass market really wants - voice, SMS, basic internet - and offering these at most affordable rates. At the same time, we constantly drive our own costs down to be able to sustain this affordability position. We also work very hard on our distribution and retail," says Jinesh Hegde, circle business head for Uninor in Gujarat.

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