India's Shock Numbers

2:45 PM -- Anyone who keeps a close eye on the Indian mobile services market might have been wondering if the latest market statistics from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had some missing numbers.

That's because only a few quarters after reporting monthly mobile subscriber gains of around 20 million, the mobile subscriber base grew by just 2.97 million in November 2011 to reach a total of 884.37 million.

But that number is correct. Certainly the market had slowed to monthly gains of around 8 million during the second half of 2011 as the main urban centers reach saturation and the introduction of mobile number portability throughout India meant users could take their numbers to another provider instead of simply opening yet another pre-paid account. (See Mobile Subs Top 880 Million.)

Now, though, there are new dynamics at work. While the gross monthly additions are still around the 8 million mark, operators -- most notably Tata Teleservices Ltd. , at this point -- are purging their databases of inactive accounts. As a result, Tata Teleservices, which has millions of dormant pre-paid lines registered on its books, is currently reporting a net loss of millions of mobile lines each month, even though it's still signing up new customers. That's skewing the figures.

To find out more, and see which Indian operators are reporting monthly gains and losses, check out Mobile Growth Grinds to Near Halt at Light Reading India, where you'll find lots of other insights into arguably the most exciting mobile market in the world. (See 2011 Top Ten: India's Hot!)

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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