Vodafone Idea Ltd (Vi) continued to lose wireless customers in December, with the cash-strapped telco shedding 5.7 million subscribers during the month, the highest since March. With this, the telecom operator has lost 34.9 million customers during April-December.
The Birla group company’s subscriber losses had surged during the covid-led lockdown imposed in March, and continued in April and May due to deactivation of SIM cards, migration of workers to their hometowns and lack of physical recharge outlets. As the economy reopened, the customer losses slowed down in the following months.
Rival Bharti Airtel Ltd led gains, adding 4.1 million users in December, while slowing growth combined with local issues such as farmers’ protest hit Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd’s subscriber additions. The Mukesh Ambani-led telecom company added only 478,917 users in December, showed Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) data.
Vi’s market share shrunk to 24.64% as of 31 December, while Airtel’s expanded to 29.36%. At 35.43%, Reliance Jio remains India’s largest telecom operator by market share.
“All service areas except Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Delhi, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Mumbai and Punjab showed growth in their wireless subscribers during December. Jammu & Kashmir showed the maximum growth of 0.99% in its wireless subscriber base,” Trai said.
Despite having the highest market share in the wireless segment, Reliance Jio’s active subscribers were the lowest among the top three telcos. Of the total customers, Jio’s active subscriber base was at 80.23% as of 31 December. Airtel and Vi’s active subscribers, or active users on a mobile network, were at 90.26 % and 97.10%, respectively.
Jio continued to lead the wireless or mobile broadband segment, with 408.8 million subscribers, while Airtel was a distant second with 176.2 million users. Vi had 120.8 million mobile broadband users and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) had 18.62 million.
Mobile broadband users are those using internet with download speeds of equal to or more than 512Kbps (kilo byte per second), implying that all customers on 3G/4G fall under this category. Jio provides only 4G service.
More than 50% of Bharti Airtel and Vi’s customers are on 2G.
In the wireline or fixed-line segment, the total subscribers decreased from 20.07 million at the end of November to 20.05 million in December. Of this, state-owned BSNL and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) together hold 50.51% market share. After BSNL, Airtel has the second highest market share at 22.77% followed by Jio at 13.74%.
Reliance Jio has been adding customers in the wireline segment owing to the introduction of cheaper plans in August 2020. It added 235,317 customers in December and Airtel gained 48,971 users during the month. Both BSNL and MTNL lost 255,909 and 23,277 fixed-line customers in November, respectively.