India’s leading telecom operator Reliance Jio continues to add users at a brisk pace, while the troubled firm Vodafone Idea is facing subscriber desertions as its future appears uncertain.
According to data collated by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, Reliance Jio added 5.5 million subscribers to its network in June, while Vodafone Idea lost another 4.3 million customers. India’s second-largest telecom operator Bharti Airtel added 3.8 million users during the period.
As of June 30, Reliance Jio led the market with a share of 36.98%, followed by Bharti Airtel (29.82%), and Vodafone Idea (23.15%). State-owned telecom companies Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited had a market share of 10.05%. Reliance Jio has a subscriber base of 436 million, while Bharti Airtel has 352 million users and Vodafone Idea’s base has now shrunk to 273 million.
Reliance Jio, promoted by India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, had a rollout in 2016 and caused widespread disruption by offering freebies and the latest technology to its users. Many legacy operators such as Tata Docomo and Telenor India had to close shop. Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea managed to survive, although they face severe stress.
Vodafone Idea is facing an existential crisis and last month its promoter, Kumar Mangalam Birla, who owns more than a 27% stake, decided to step down as non-executive director and non-executive chairman of Vodafone Idea. Birla is even willing to hand over his stake to the government to keep the company afloat. These developments have put a question mark on the future of the company and its subscriber base has taken a hit.
However, in terms of visitor location register, a key metric indicating the number of active users on a mobile network, it delivers a satisfactory performance. While Bharti Airtel leads with 97.62% of its users being active on the mobile, Vodafone Idea came second (88.43%), followed by Reliance Jio (77.94%).
The total number of Indian wireless subscribers by the end of May was around 1.17 billion and by the end of June it rose to 1.18 billion, an increase of 0.34%. While the urban subscriber count rose from 641.48 million in May to 646.29 million in June, the rural areas have taken a hit – declining to 534.54 million in June from 535.36 million in May.
Fixed-line subscribers increased from 21.66 million in May to 21.74 million by June end, with urban centers accounting for 91.11% subscribers, while the remaining 8.89% were from rural areas. State-owned telecom operators Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited jointly enjoy a 47.60% market share in the fixed-line market.
The number of broadband subscribers also rose 1.6% to 792.78 million by the end of June, from 780.27 million in May, with top-five service providers cornering a share of 98.7%. “These service providers were Reliance Jio (439.91 million), Bharti Airtel (197.10 million), Vodafone Idea (121.42 million), BSNL (22.69 million) and Atria Convergence (1.91 million),” the report said.