BSNL on track to post biggest ever subscriber losses in FY18

India’s state-owned telecom utility Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd is likely to report a decline of around 1.66 mln landline phone users in the year-ended March 2018, the highest in its history.

During the first ten months of the just-concluded financial year, the company saw a 10.04% fall in its landline telephone users. At this rate, total landline subscriber base is on track to decline by about 12.15% during the full financial year.

This is the biggest ever such fall in the company’s history. The previous highest decline was in the year ended March 2016, when landline subscribers fell by about 10%.

In absolute numbers too, the decline is likely to be the highest in the company’s history, at 1.66 mln users lost. The previous record was in financial year 2015-16, when it lost 1.65 mln users.

With this, in the 34 months from March 31 2015 to January 31 2018, BSNL has recorded a fall of 25% in its landline subscriber numbers to 1.23 cr from 1.64 cr..


The rate of decline is not uniform across India, with the highest rates seen in northern states.

The hill state of Himachal Pradesh, for example, saw a 40% fall in BSNL landline users in the last 34 months from 2 lakh to 1.2 lakh.

Similarly, Punjab saw a decline of 37.5%, from 7.62 lakh to 4.76 lakh in the 34 months.

Other circles with losses above 30% are West Bengal (38%), UP West (33%), Haryana (31%) and Bihar (31%).

Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu — which contribute a large chunk of the company’s earnings — saw declines in the range of 25%-27% over the same period (see chart).

Among the states that saw only single-digit attrition were UP East (9.3%), North East II (2.6%) and Chhattisgarh (8.6%).


In the year ended March 2018, the biggest loss in subscribers has been recorded in Punjab.

Having lost 18.8% in 10 months, the state is on track to lose 22.7% of its landline subscribers by the time the full-year numbers are tallied.

Following closely, Himachal Pradesh is likely to lose 19.4%, Rajasthan 18.5% and Haryana 17.9%.


BSNL’s metro compatriot Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd or MTNL also continues to lose landline users, but at a far lower rate.

Unlike BSNL, MTNL has been able to convert the majority of its users to broadband subscribers.

Against a loss of 25% of subscribers by BSNL in 34 months, MTNL has lost only 5.5% of its landline users during the same period.

Similarly, against a projected shrinkage of 12.15% in FY18 for BSNL, MTNL is on track to see a loss of 3.7% of its subscribers in the full year, having already lost 3.05% in the first 10 months itself.


The loss of subscribers is attributable to several reasons, including prolonged downtime experienced by customers due to cable faults, a sharp decline in voice tariff in the mobile segment due to the entry of Reliance Jio and the introduction of true, high-speed wireless broadband services, also with the entry of Reliance Jio.

Unlike the loss of mobile subscribers, a shrinkage in the number of landline users has the potential to further ravage BSNL’s precarious financial position.