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Cellular subscriber base crosses 6.7 m -- Bharti accounts for 14 lakh

Our Bureau

NEW DELHI, May 9

THE cellular subscriber base in the country has reached 6.7 million, having added over 2.8 lakh additional customers in the month of April 2002.

As per the latest estimates of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the total number of cellular subscribers in the four metros continues to be the highest at 26.99 lakh subscribers followed closely by A circle at 21.88 lakh subscribers and B Circle at 15.87 lakh subscribers. Circle C continues to be far behind at only 2.39 lakh subscribers.

Among the operators, Bharti is the single largest mobile operator accounting for 14.03 lakh subscribers. Bharti is also the single largest operator in any one single circle, having bagged over six lakh customers in Delhi. Hutchison is the second largest single operator accounting for 13.51 lakh subscribers.

While Bharti is the service provider in Delhi, Kolkatta, Chennai, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh circles, Hutchison provides cellular services in Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and Gujarat circles.

The BPL group is a close third with a total subscriber base of 9.16 lakh subscribers followed by Birla-AT&T-Tata (Idea cellular) with 8.39 lakh subscribers.

It may be recalled that the two cellular entities are in talks for a merger, which if it fructifies would put their combined subscriber base at 15.81 lakh subscribers (excluding BPL's Maharashtra circle which is to be hived off).

The merged entity would have its footprints in Mumbai, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala circles. The deal has not yet materialised, although it was announced a year ago.

The top four cellular groups together have a subscriber base of 45.09 lakhs, which works out to 67 per cent of the total market. The remaining 33 per cent being shared amongst Escotel, Spice Communications, Aircel, Koshika, Reliance Telecom, MTNL and BSNL.

Interestingly, the public sector entities MTNL and BSNL have a total subscriber base of just around 2.24 lakh subscribers. While MTNL accounts for 2.03 lakhs in both Mumbai and Delhi, BSNL, which has started its services in Kolkatta and Bihar has managed just around 21,383 subscribers.

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