Nearly nine lakh Aircel customers across India decided to port their numbers to other telecom service providers on Wednesday due to frequent call drops, amidst reports that the telecom company is facing financial difficulties.

On Tuesday, around three lakh customers decided to port out, said K Sankara Narayanan, Head, SBU (South), Aircel. “We are trying to sort out the issue,” he told BusinessLine .

“There is some legal issue with one of the telecom tower companies. Due to this, the network was cut by the tower company across India. This created a network problem and mayhem in the market. Our customers decided to port out. We allowed them to go as they need mobile service,” he said. Aircel’s infrastructure could not handle such a large number of requests to port out. It will take some time to be fulfil all the requests, he said.

Customers frustrated

Aircel’s customers turned to social media networks to voice their concerns about the network problem and about being unable to port out.

On Twitter, Aircel kept sending messages individually to those customers who complained about the porting issue saying: “We regret to inform you that it will take some time to provide better service in that particular area due to the technical issue. So, requesting you to cooperate with us. We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused.”

As word spread about problems at Aircel, customers thronged Airtel and Jio outlets to port or get a new SIM card. “A large number of customers have visited Airtel showrooms to port. We are still collecting data,” said an official at Airtel.

Narayanan said Aircel’s infrastructure was under tremendous strain due to the surge in traffic. On Sunday, maintenance work was being undertaken, which aggravated the problem, he said.

Aircel’s problems started 10 days ago, when Idea Cellular suspended interconnect services with Aircel due to non-payment of dues.

Despite several reminders seeking dues pending since November 2017, the operator failed to honour its payment commitments, forcing Idea to suspend interconnect services, in line with the agreement between the two operators.

Our Delhi bureau adds: Aircel’s employees are fearful about losing their jobs. “There is no mail from HR or the promoters on whether our jobs are safe or not,” said one employee. More than 5,000 Aircel employees have requested to port out, but none of them has succeeded in doing so.

The company, which recorded a quarterly operating profit of ₹120 crore in July 2016, saw that drop to ₹5 crore by July 2017. It reported an operating loss at ₹120 crore for the December 2017 quarter.