Reliance Jio has surpassed Vodafone-Idea to officially become India’s leading telecom operator. While the monthly subscriber report from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is yet to be published, the news comes from data collated off the quarterly financial reports furbished by Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone-Idea, India’s three leading telecom operators.
In May 2019, Bharti Airtel disclosed thorugh TRAI its user base of 320.4 million users, while enduring a rough quarter of high subscriber churn rate (subscribers unsubscribing from the network against new subscriptions). In contrast, Jio’s recently disclosed Q1 FY20 financial report showed 331.3 million subscribers in its network. Now, with Vodafone-Idea’s financial report for the same quarter, it has come to light that the operator group lost 14.1 million in Q1 FY20, declining from the industry-topping 334.1 million subscribers as of March 2019, to stand at 320 million subscribers at the moment.
Vodafone-Idea has attributed the loss of subscribers to its recently introduced service validity vouchers and the minimum recharge plans, as it aims to do away with low revenue customers and consolidate its burgeoning losses. Jio, on the other hand, has been on a steep escalation path ever since launching in India three years ago, single-handedly turning around the Indian telecom market with low-cost data and call plans, along with bundled content and services.
When the Vodafone-Idea merger was finalised on August 31, 2018, the subscriber group had a total of nearly 400 million subscribers and took the undisputed position of India’s number one telecom operator by market share and user base. However, despite the consolidated merger, its user base declined consistently every month in a rate that was directly proportional to Jio’s increase in subscriber base.
Trends from TRAI’s data over the past one year does not show any notion of slowdown in Jio’s subscriber base, and with the expected 5G spectrum battle on the horizon, Vodafone-Idea and Bharti Airtel will look to salvage some of their declining market shares through effective business strategies.