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Mobile user base falls to 870.6 mln, RCom extends clean-up

A man speaks on a mobile phone at a marketplace in New Delhi June 18, 2013. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee/Files

REUTERS - India's mobile phone customer base declined 0.7 percent in September to 870.58 million, as Reliance Communications(RLCM.NS) culled 10.5 million inactive connections, extending a clean-up exercise.

Mobile phone accounts in the world's second-biggest market by number of users fell a net 6.14 million in September, data released by sector regulator TRAI showed on Tuesday, in what was the first decline in five months.

By comparison, China, the world's biggest mobile phone market, reported a 0.9 percent monthly rise in mobile subscribers to 1.21 billion as of end-September.

Reliance Communications said in a statement to Reuters it had deactivated "unprofitable, low-end" subscribers and that it would have no impact on its revenue. The fall pushed Reliance Communications one spot down to rank No.4 by customers.

India's mobile user base had fallen in nine of the 10 months to April this year, mainly due to disconnection of inactive subscribers. Reliance Communications had deactivated 20.5 million inactive users in July last year.

Bharti Airtel added 1.16 million subscribers during September, while Vodafone's India unit and Idea Cellular signed up about 1.21 million each.

Other highlights on telecom subscription data from TRAI (as on September 30, 2013):

* Active mobile subscriptions in September were 738.89 million, or 84.87 percent of the total connections.

* Mobile connections per 100 people, known as tele-density, were 70.63 in September. Mobile tele-density in urban areas was 137.93, compared with 40.96 in rural areas.

*In September, 2.29 million mobile subscribers opted to change their service providers through mobile number portability.

* The number of broadband users marginally rose to 15.36 million in September from 15.28 million in the previous month.

* The number of fixed-phone line subscribers fell to 29.28 million in September from 29.46 million in August.

* Including fixed-phone lines, India had 899.86 million phone users as of September 30, or a total tele-density of 73.01.

(Source: TRAI, to view the complete statement, click http://link.reuters.com/xat44v)

(Compiled by Devidutta Tripathy in New Delhi; Editing by Anand Basu)