Even as Jammu and Kashmir has added almost 2 lakh new mobile subscribers every month between February 2017 to April 2017, Kashmir has already faced four internet bans in last six months causing huge losses to telecom companies operating in this region and bringing inconvenience to common people, particularly business community and students.
According to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) J&K had total number of of 1.2 crore mobile subscribers at the end of April.
An executive of a private mobile company, wishing not to be named said "it is ironical" that on one hand the state has managed to cross 1.2 crore active mobile subscribers recently and on the other hand frequent internet bans is proving to be a dampener for mobile companies who continue to suffer huge losses due to internet bans.
According to Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) mobile service providers suffered losses worth Rs 180 crore during the 3 months of complete communication ban with daily losses of almost Rs 2 crore when both calling and data services were banned in Kashmir. "The companies continue to suffer losses every time there is internet ban as data consumption in Kashmir is massive," he said.
While internet was suspended twice between January 2016 and April 2017, it was again suspended in last week of May when Hizb Commander Sabzar Ahmad was killed by government forces.
While 2G, 3G, 4G internet services were suspended during May end, the latest internet ban- in place since Friday- has witnessed suspension of even BSNL Broadband services, which otherwise used to be the only source of internet operational during previous internet shutdowns.
"This time around the authorities have managed to suspend even Broadband which was quite useful during the last internet ban," said a young techie who had launched an alternate online social media network during the last internet ban.
The ongoing internet suspension is 33rd since 2012. Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC), a Delhi-based not-for-profit organisation in its recently released figures had claimed that internet services were shut 31 times in J&K between 2012 to April 2017 and again banned in May 2017.
Even as the telecom in J&K seems on a growth trajectory, the impact of internet ban has been silently taking a toll on overall growth of J&K as a telecom hub. As per latest TRAI figures, JK had witnessed a growth of 1.73 percent in new mobile subscriptions in March, 2017 which was the most added by any state. However, the state witnessed a drop in its position in April 2017 as it featured at second slot after neighbouring Punjab in terms of additions of new mobile subscribers. It witnessed a growth of 0.91 percent in April adding more than one lakh subscribers while in March J&K had added more than 2 lakh subscribers.
"Had the internet bans and communication gags not taken place, J&K has the maximum potential to emerge as the fastest growing state in telecom industry. It keeps on losing its top slot as the state with maximum monthly growth of mobile subscribers as the internet gag literally backs the break of this industry," the executive said.