According to official Government statistics there are about 900 million mobile phone subscribers in India, a nation of 1.2 billion. However, the Government data revealed that around 300 million of these connections are defunct. The statistic indicating that almost a third of the country’s mobile phone numbers were inactive.
This means only one in every two persons in India has a mobile phone, compared to three in every four persons that the official figures show- or a sharp drop in tele-density from to 50% from 75%.
“There is a huge database of permanently inactive numbers with each service provider. The department of telecom (DoT) may refer to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to determine the criteria for deletion of such numbers and sparing them for fresh utilisation,” said an internal DoT note accessed by HT.
The spate in number of defunct connections was attributed to a skewed policy where telecom operators were encouraged to inflate subscriber numbers as higher consumer bases facilitated them to greater spectrum bandwidth.
At the same time, higher subscriber bases also helped telcos to drive valuations that were listed on stock exchanges or were planning to attract fresh investment.
Telecom service providers have told the DoT that a large number of subscribers are under the so-called ‘Lifetime Plan’ that enables consumers to retain numbers indefinitely without actually using them.
Service providers said it is difficult for the operators to delete these numbers and free them for new subscribers due to “contractual obligations”.