The latest subscriber data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) shows a decreasing number of subscribers for Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), the state-owned telecommunications service provider.
As of April 2023, the top five service providers in India accounted for a substantial 98.39 per cent market share of the total broadband subscribers. Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd dominated the market with 441.92 million subscribers, followed by Bharti Airtel with 244.37 million subscribers, Vodafone Idea with 123.58 million subscribers, BSNL with 25.26 million subscribers, and Atria Convergence with 2.14 million subscribers.
Despite being in the top five looking back at data released by Trai this year, BSNL has witnessed a consistent decline in its wireless subscriber base since January 2023. The data reveals a steady downward trend, with BSNL losing 1,491,445 subscribers in January, followed by further losses of 1,025,604 subscribers in February, 519,008 subscribers in March, and 729,096 subscribers in April.
Within BSNL's subscriber base, Tamil Nadu emerged as the top circle for BSNL, making up 9,899,833 of its subscribers. Kerala followed closely with 9,767,943 subscribers, while Uttar Pradesh East, Andhra Pradesh & Telangana, and Maharashtra & Goa secured the next three spots with 8,652,063, 7,985,490, and 6,249,033 subscribers, respectively.
BSNL's rural subscriber count also decreased from 33,260,909 in January to 32,163,139 in April 2023.
BSNL's subscriber count has been steadily declining, reaching 105,125,146 in January, 104,099,542 in February, 103,580,534 in March, and 102,851,438 in April 2023. At this pace, BSNL is on the verge of falling below the 100 million subscriber mark, approaching a two-digit million subscriber range.
Government revival packages
In 2019, the government approved a revival package worth Rs 69,000 crore for BSNL/MTNL. Subsequently, in 2022, a second package of Rs 1.64 trillion was sanctioned. This year, the Union Cabinet approved the third revival package, allocating Rs 89,047 crores, to help the state-owned telecom operator deploy 4G and 5G services. In June 2023, the cabinet revisited BSNL's budget increasing the authorised capital of BSNL from Rs 1.5 trillion to Rs 2.10 trillion. The Cabinet also cleared the allotment of 4G and 5G spectrum for the company through equity infusion, an act that has severely impacted the telecom provider's ability to compete in the market.
L&T Technology Services has also entered into a strategic partnership with BSNL to drive and enable global enterprises in their private 5G network deployments.
While the government has implemented multiple revival packages, the effectiveness of these measures remains uncertain.