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Reliance Jio gained over 7.9 million active subscribers in March, thanks to the JioPhone offer. In terms of net additions, the company was ahead of competitors, showed the latest data released by telecom regulator TRAI. Bharti Airtel added 4.1 active subscribers million and Vodafone Idea gained 1.1 million customers in March compared to the previous month.

On 26 February, Reliance had launched a JioPhone offer. Feature phone subscribers were the primary target of this scheme, and the offer was applicable from 1 March.

Despite the JioPhone offer giving Reliance Jio's subscriber base a boost, Bharti continues to see a healthy growth. "Jio's JioPhone offer has not impacted Bharti's additions in March across markets which could bode well for its subscriber outlook in FY22," analysts at Jefferies India Pvt Ltd said in a report.

Analysts at Motilal Oswal Financial Services Ltd point out that JioPhone’s contribution helped RJio achieve stellar 4G additions improving its 4G market share by 10 basis points (bps) to 56%. One basis point is one hundereth of a percentage point. "Bharti saw a limited impact, continuing its momentum of additions. Incremental 4G market share could be over 40% for Bharti as per our workings, excluding Jiophone," added the Motilal Oswal report.

In March, the Indian telecom sector's subscribers grew by 13 million to 1,181 million, the highest in 33 months. This was aided by 7.4 million additions in the rural markets.

Meanwhile, analysts say that with Jio gaining subscribers on the back of its JioPhone offer and the potential for market share gains in rural areas from Vodafone Idea, the company is unlikely to raise tariffs in the near term. Vodafone Idea's performance in the rural markets remained weak in March, the company saw a 4.1million fall in subscribers.

Analysts at Jefferies further caution that if the sharp uptick seen in mobile number portability in March persists, then churn levels in the sector will rise which in turn will hit margins.

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