Hutchison Essar overtakes BSNL in subscriber base

12 June, 2007: Hutchison Essar Limited (HEL) has moved up to become the second largest GSM mobile service provider in India, overtaking state-owned BSNL. Vodafone, based in the United Kingdom, had recently acquired majority stake in Hutchison Essar.

HEL bettered BSNL after it recorded a 5.4% growth in its subscriber base in May 2007, with the addition of over 1.5 million subscribers during this period, compared to 0.24 million for BSNL.

According to the latest data compiled by the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the industry association representing all GSM operators, Hutchison Essar had 29.2 million subscribers and a market share of 22.36% in the GSM sector as of May-end, as against 27.9 million and 21.43%, respectively, for BSNL.

Overall, Hutchison Essar is now the third largest cellular operator in India, after Bharti Airtel, which has over 40.7 million subscribers, and Reliance Communications, with 30.5 million subscribers.

In the wake of the mobile phone boom and aggressive strategy by operators to add new users, the GSM subscriber base in the country has crossed the 130-million landmark, according to the Cellular Operators Association of India. The GSM subscriber base grew 4.02% in May 2007 to 130.1 million, compared to 125.6 million in April 2007.

The growth in May was led by Bharti Airtel, which added over 1.9 million new users during the month. Bharti Airtel now has a market share of 31.2% cent in the GSM space.

Public-sector undertaking BSNL failed to add more subscribers over the last few months since the company had exhausted its capacity in most key circles. And, it has not taken up any major network expansion since October 2005, leading to even regional players like Idea Cellular, which has operations in just 11 circles, overtaking BSNL in terms of subscriber addition over the few months.




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