BSNL extends Sunday Free Calling “on popular demand”

Wireline net additions last month

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd or BSNL, the state-owned telecom operator, said it has cancelled its order to stop unlimited free calls on its landlines on all Sundays.

The order was issued two weeks ago and had said that the facility of unlimited free calling on Sundays would be abolished from February.

On Saturday, the company issued a fresh statement saying it had decided to put a stop to the earlier order, and extend the facility of Sunday free calling for another three months, in keeping with popular demand.

The facility was put in place in August last year to arrest the rapid decline in the number of landline users of BSNL.

The company, still the largest provider of wired phone services in the country, has been seeing a steady erosion of its landline subscribers due to the increasing popularity of wireless services.

The company, which had 1.54 cr landline users on Dec 1, 2015, saw it fall to 1.26 cr as of Dec 1, 2017.

On average, the company has been losing around 1.1 lakh subscribers per month.

Landline subscribers are crucial to BSNL as they generate 500-900 rupees of income per month, depending on the circle. In comparison, an average mobile user generates less than Rs 100 per month, and even less in recent times because of heavy competition.

BSNL landlines are surrendered for various reasons, including relatively higher costs compared to mobile services, and prolonged downtime.

Interestingly, other wired services players, such as Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications and Tata Teleservices have seen an increase in their subscriber based over the last two years.

Bharti’s subscriber numbers have gone from 35.74 lakh two years ago to 39.07 lakh at present, while that of Reliance Communications has gone from 11.64 lakh to 11.88 lakh.

This is attributed to the larger penetration of broadband services among the other players compared to BSNL.

Speaking to investors after Bharti Airtel’s third quarter results last month, the company’s CEO Gopal Vittal said the increasing availability of cheap wireless data services on 4G technology has hit the take-up of wired connections.

Even though the carrying capacity of wireless services cannot be compared to wired services, people are “making do with a network that is decent enough,” he said.