Telecom major Bharti Airtel has reported higher subscriber additions than current market leader Reliance Jio for the sixth straight month, according to numbers released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for January 2021.
Airtel added 5.89 Mn subscribers (up 1.2% month on month) compared to Jio, which reported an addition of 1.9 Mn subscribers (up 0.4% month on month) in January 2021. Vodafone Idea added 1.7 Mn subscribers. Jio still leads the subscriber base with 410.7 Mn subscribers, followed by Airtel with 344.6 Mn subscribers and Vodafone Idea with 285.9 Mn subscribers.
Reliance Jio continues to command the highest wireless market share at 35.3% followed by Airtel (29.62%) and Vodafone Idea (24.58%). Note that, between June 2020 to January 2021, when Airtel started reporting its robust subscriber additions, Reliance Jio’s market share has increased nominally compared to 34.8% in June. On the other hand, Vodafone Idea’s market share has dropped from 26.75% in June suggesting that the gains reported by Airtel are largely Vodafone subscribers.
In the meantime, Reliance Jio has ramped up its wireline market share from 7.3% in June 2020 to 14.7% in January 2021. Jio has actually benefited from BSNL’s decline, which saw market share fall from 41% in June 2020 to 34% in January 2021.
Jio And Airtel In Digital Services Race
Even as they fight for market share, Jio and Airtel are also building their arsenal of digital services to maximise the revenue potential of their subscriber base.
Jio Platforms, a 67% subsidiary of India’s business behemoth Reliance Industries (RIL), which houses Reliance Jio has announced investments from the likes of Facebook and Google to build their connected digital ecosystem. However, Airtel’s lead in the ARPU game shows it has managed to get a larger share of their subscriber’s wallet spend.
Even in terms of subscriber usage, Jio has struggled to shake off the “second SIM” tag. In January 2021, Bharti Airtel continued to report the maximum proportion (97.44%) of its active wireless subscribers (VLR) compared to total wireless subscribers, much ahead of the 79% VLR p reported by Jio.
Now, both telcos have extended this battle to the wired broadband ecosystem. The top three wired broadband service providers in January were BSNL (7.69 Mn), Bharti Airtel (2. 90 Mn) and Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (2.25 Mn). Reliance Jio has been rapidly gaining market share from BSNL in this space, especially since the pandemic started.
While Jio has its massive in-house digital investments and startup acquisitions, 94% of the revenue of Jio platforms comes from the telecom business at present. Airtel has been building products, partnerships and commerce (large-scale retail) solutions for five years or more. And around 21% of Airtel’s India revenue comes from non-mobile businesses thanks to their large enterprise solution offerings.