Reliance Jio fails to hit subscriber base of Airtel, Idea, Vodafone: analysts

Despite attractive free service offers from Reliance Jio , analysts continue to hold Airtel as the best-positioned telecom firm


Reliance Jio continues to be popular in urban areas, where teledensity is more than 100%. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
Reliance Jio continues to be popular in urban areas, where teledensity is more than 100%. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

New Delhi: Even after nearly two months of free services, Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd has not been able to impact the net subscriber additions for incumbent telecom operators.

In fact, the net additions in October for Bharti Airtel Ltd, Idea Cellular Ltd and Vodafone India have been higher than their last six-month average, according to a report by Citi Research.

“Looking at the incumbents sub data, Jio’s free period offer doesn’t appear to have impacted their net adds even in the second month since its launch. Airtel/Vodafone/Idea’s October sub adds have been higher than their last six-month average, cumulatively adding 4.9m subs. This is actually higher than September when the cumulative net adds were at 4.8m,” Citi Research said in a report issued on 21 November.

Analysts continue to hold Bharti Airtel as the best-positioned telco.

As per COAI (Cellular Operators Association of India) data on GSM subscribers, Bharti Airtel enjoyed highest additions at 2.33 million subscribers in October. Additions for Idea and Vodafone were 1.43 million and 1.12 million, respectively, in October.

The focus of telecom operators on rural expansion has been the reason for subscriber base uptake while Reliance Jio continues to be popular in urban areas where teledensity is more than 100%.

“However, rising incidence of dual-SIMS would start to hurt incumbents’ margins as it leads to higher churn. 3Q (third quarter) is likely to be weak for incumbents as it will not only include full-quarter impact of Jio’s Welcome Offer and some impact of demonetization,” Citi report said.

In October, Reliance Jio claimed adding 16 million customers on its network within a month of its launch.

Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Jio’s parent Reliance Industries Ltd, set a target of acquisition of 100 million customers on Jio network “in the shortest possible time, and set a world record”, aiming to cover 90% of India’s population by March 2017.

The analysts at CIti Research also noted that the sector has not seen full impact of demonetisation up till now, but the impact could get worse. There has been a 5-7% drop in recharges since demonetisation has been announced and usage and revenues could be hit if the liquidity doesn’t improve in next 15 days.

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