The number of mobile phone subscribers in India decreased by 3.66 million in September to 1.17 billion, representing the first fall in seven months, according to the latest data released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai).
The number of subscribers had last fallen by 3.7 million back in February.
In recent months, it rose by 1.08 million in August, 0.64 million in July, and 1.89 million in June.
The latest fall in subscribers was concentrated in rural areas, pointing towards signs of deepening rural distress.
The number of subscribers in India's rural areas fell by 3.71 million in September.
While Trai data had earlier shown rural subscriptions declining, the latest fall remains one of the largest in recent times.
Rural subscriptions had seen a see-saw over the past few months, rising by 750,000 in August, falling by 0.61 million in July, and going up by 950,000 in June.
On the other hand, in urban areas, the number of subscribers rose by 540,000 to a total 651.61 million in September.
Subscribers had continued to rise, going up by 470,000 in August, 1.31 million in July, and 1.28 million in June.
The fall could also be attributed to subscribers leaving Vodafone Idea (Vi), which saw its subscriber base shrink by 4 million in September.
The company had been losing subscribers over the past few months, but the pace of loss has continuously accelerated. It lost 1.9 million in August, 1.5 million in July, and 1.8 million in June.
Meanwhile, Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio continued to cement its lead in the Indian telecom market as it gained 700,000 mobile subscribers in September.
However, the pace of new customer addition slowed considerably from August when the company had added 3.2 million subscribers.
It had gained 2.94 million, and 400,000 new subscribers in July and June.
Sunil Bharti Mittal-led Bharti Airtel added 0.4 million subscribers in September, the data showed. It had added 300,000, 500,000 and 700,000 subscribers in the previous months of August, July and June, respectively. BSNL and MTNL lost 7,82,226 and 7,490 wireless customers, respectively.
Jio had the highest user base in the country at 419.96 million as of September 30, followed by Airtel at 364.2 million, and Vi with 249.1 million.