In the November auction of second-generation telecom spectrum, Bihar was the only circle to cross the base price, as GSM operators -- Idea Cellular [ Get Quote ], Videocon [ Get Quote ], Vodafone and Telenor -- surprisingly fought for spectrum.
Was it just the low base price that made this under-penetrated telecom circle attractive for operators? The November data of GSM subscribers offers some light.
In a month when every GSM operator has lost net subscribers, Bihar, along with Jammu and Kashmir, brought some breather for them. Bihar tops the chart with a 0.72 per cent net addition in the GSM subscriber base in November, while Jammu and Kashmir witnessed a 0.26 per cent rise during the month.
Bihar has a low tele-density of 46.75 per cent, while the national average is 77 per cent. So, there is huge scope for voice telephony.
In Bihar, GSM operators have added 333,000 new customers in November, taking the total subscriber base to 46.3 million, according to data published by the Cellular Operators Association of India.
In Jammu and Kashmir, they gained 15,897 new users during the month, taking the total numbers to 6 million.
Bihar contributes 4.9 per cent of revenue to the telecom companies' pan-India earning, which is higher than many other leading circles -- Punjab (3.7 per cent), West Bengal (3.2 per cent), Haryana (2.1 per cent), Madhya Pradesh (4.6 per cent), Kolkata (2.6 per cent) and Kerala (4.3 per cent).
Bharti Airtel Ltd [ Get Quote ], the country's largest telecom company, tops the chart with an addition of 380,000 new users in November in Bihar, followed by Uninor that added 120,000 subscribers. Dishnet Wireless lost about 182,000 customers in the state, according to COAI.
Kolkata remains a concern for GSM operators as they have lost most customers in the city in November. GSM operators' net subscriber base dropped 2.87 per cent, or 430,000, in the Kolkata circle, bringing down the total user base to 14.8 million till November from 15.3 million reported till the previous month.
In Tamil Nadu, the GSM net subscriber base dropped by 2.64 per cent, followed by Rajasthan that saw a decline of 2.07 per cent, says COAI.
Vodafone suffered the most in Kolkata with a loss of 145,000 customers in November, followed by Idea (119,000) and Bharti Airtel (117,000).
Almost all Videocon subscribers have stopped using its service, and the company is left with just 12 users till the end of November.
There are still 1.81 million Uninor users in the Kolkata telecom circle, who will have to either port their numbers or have to exhaust their balance by January 18, as the company has decided to walk out of the circle because of licence cancellation by the Supreme Court in February.
Uninor has already announced that it will inform all its subscribers about the service discontinuation as the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has asked on Monday.
Nationally, the GSM subscriber base fell 1.34 per cent in November to 663.7 million, according to COAI. Operators have lost most customers in category A circles (1.79 per cent), followed by metro circles with 1.5 per cent drop.
The category B circles saw 1.29 per cent decline, while the category C circles lost 0.26 per cent users.