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India’s overall mobile subscriber base stood at 1.14 billion at month-end, down 3.2 million from the previous month.
India’s overall mobile subscriber base stood at 1.14 billion at month-end, down 3.2 million from the previous month.

4.5 mn users join Jio in Jun; Vi loses most

Jio now has 34.8% wireless market share, while Airtel and Vodafone Idea have 27.8% and 26.8% respectively

Vodafone Idea Ltd lost 4.8 million users in June, shedding customers for the eighth month in a row, even as rival Bharti Airtel Ltd narrowed the loss to 1.1 million. Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd was the only gainer in June, signing up 4.5 million new customers, showed data issued by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Thursday. State-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) lost 1.7 million users in June.

India’s overall mobile subscriber base—including 2G, 3G and 4G—stood at 1.14 billion at the end of June, down 3.2 million from the previous month. In May, both Vodafone Idea and Airtel lost 4.7 each million subscribers each, with a stringent nationwide lockdown in place.

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Jio now has 34.8% wireless market share, while Airtel and Vodafone Idea have 27.8% and 26.8% respectively.

“Shift to work-from-home from offices is one of the factors for loss of subscribers. Traffic and demand has increased in home circles which has revealed the poor quality of network. This may be one factor customers dropped out of their existing networks," said Rajiv Sharma, head of equity research at SBICAP Securities.

The loss is the highest for Vodafone Idea, which has not invested much in improving its services. The company has limited scope to increase its capex due to stressed financials, Sharma said.

While the overall number of mobile subscribers declined in June, the fixed-line subscriber base rose by a marginal 40,000 to 19.8 million, amid the Centre’s focus to improve broadband connectivity. Jio, Airtel and Vodafone added 223,013, 25,256 and 6,854 wireline users in June respectively. BSNL lost 179,514 wireline customers in June.

Total wireless urban subscription fell from 637.9 million at the end of May to 636.8 million in June.

Unlike the previous two months, where the migrant exodus from cities drove up number of subscribers in rural areas, rural subscriptions declined from 525.8 million in May to 523.7 million as of 30 June.

“The monthly decline rates of urban and rural telephone subscription were 0.16% and 0.41%, respectively, during the month of June 2020," the telecom regulator said.

In the fixed broadband category, BSNL led with 7.9 million subscribers in June, followed by Bharti Airtel at 2.5 million, Atria Convergence Technologies (ACT) at 1.7 million and Jio at 1.1 million. Both Jio and Airtel recently launched cheaper fixed broadband plans to attract customers in a tariff war-stricken market.

On Tuesday, Jio launched a slew of postpaid plans for higher-paying premium customers, which threatens Airtel and Vodafone’s limited but profitable market of such users.

“Jio’s target perhaps is upgrading its own 280 million smartphone subscribers to postpaid and higher Arpu (average revenue per user) plans. This could help nudge the overall market to higher Arpus and be a positive for the industry," JPMorgan said in a research report.

Managements of both Airtel and Vodafone Idea have hinted at another round of tariff hike, aiming to lift Arpu first to 200, and eventually to 300.

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