Wireless operators reported 18.9m SIM additions in February 2010, down 5% from Jan (19.9m) despite 10% fewer days. Monthly net-adds of Tata Tele (TTSL) continue to ease and were down 30% from Sep-09 peak of 4 million. GSM leaders (Bharti/Voda) reported some up-tick in netadds in Feb (13%/2% mom), while figures reported by RCOM/Idea were practically unchanged vs. January. Notably, new entrants Uninor and S Tel, reported a meaningful mom decline in their net-adds.
TTSL has been the #1 operator by SIM-additions, ever since it launched GSM in late July (2009), but in February, it lost the pole position to Vodafone, which reported 3.1m net-adds vs. TTSL’s 2.8m (and Bharti’s 2.9m). In the five ‘old’ GSM circles (AP, TN, KN, Kerala, Orissa), TTSL’s net-adds are 60% below the Sep-09 levels. However, it is not clear whether this reflects a slowdown in underlying business growth—lower monthly net-adds could also be due to implementation of churn policies.
Its monthly net-adds are up 34% over the last 6 months, which compares well with the 6% uptick reported by Bharti and 40-45% by Vodafone/Idea/Aircel. Nonetheless, we are cautious on RCOM as ARPU/MOU trend for RCOM has been very volatile (mostly disappointing) recently.