Indian operators recorded a sharp decline in prepaid balance top-ups since a 21-day lockdown was imposed in late March due to customers being unable to visit retail stores, with a related knock-on to user additions, The Economic Times (ET) reported.

Industry executives said prepaid customers have almost stopped topping-up accounts at stores, while digital recharges, accounting for about a third of the total, also dropped since the government announced measures to slow the spread of Covid-19 (coronavirus), ET wrote.

More than 90 per cent of the country’s 1.15 billion mobile users have prepaid accounts and typically use retail outlets to increase their balance.

With recharge volumes down by an estimated 35 per cent, sources told the newspaper the three largest mobile operators could see revenue decline by about INR150 million ($1.97 million) over the lockdown period.

ET reported Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel last week extended the validity period on prepaid accounts and offered additional free voice minutes after India’s regulator requested they took action to prevent people visiting stores.

Operators in China were previously hit by similar restrictions to limit the spread of the virus, with mobile subscriptions in the first two months of the year falling by nearly 21 million.