In two months, cell firms lose 15 lakh customers in state

In the last two months, November and December 2012, telecom companies operating in the Gujarat circle have lost over 15 lakh GSM subscribers, which is perhaps the biggest-ever exodus of mobile customers from the state.

As per the latest data released by the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), an industry association of GSM mobile service providers in India, Gujarat currently has 4.01 crore customers, down from the 4.16 crore that existed at the end of October 2012.

Telecom operators believe the shrinkage in subscriber base is nothing but a "rationalisation in the base" in the state where "customers with multiple SIM cards are settling down".

The biggest loser is Vodafone, the largest mobile operator in the state with 158 lakh customers. In the last two months, the company lost a total of 5.76 lakh subscribers.

"This is not a loss, but a rationalisation in the base, seen after the new TRAI regulations introduced in November. Overall, Vodafone Gujarat's customer base has improved in the past one year," said an official spokesperson of Vodafone, India.

Aircel Limited suffered the second biggest loss in Gujarat, losing over 4.31 lakh customers in these two months. Bharti Airtel came in third, losing 3.5 lakh customers during this period.

In fact, Airtel has been steadily losing ground in Gujarat. In the five months between August and December 2012, the third-largest telecom operator in the state lost 5.8 lakh GSM subscribers. Airtel, that had over 73.9 lakh customers in July 2012, saw its subscriber base shrink to 68.1 lakh by the end of December. Airtel officials also attributed the losses to new TRAI guidelines.

Of the seven telecom operators in Gujarat, Uninor, that offers basic pre-paid services, is the only one to have added 2.79 lakh subscribers during this period. The company, which is one of the youngest entrant into the Gujarat telecom circle, added 1.92 lakh customers in November 2012, and an additional 87,000 customers in December last year.

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