India’s total wireless subscribers decreased from 1,167.50 Mn in November, 2021 to 1,154.62 Mn in December
Bharti Airtel added 0.47 Mn wireless customers in December last year, taking its gross user base to 355.76 Mn
Cash-strapped Vodafone Idea (Vi) lost another 1.61 Mn in December of 2021, lowering its user base further to 265.51 Mn
The number of wireless subscribers in the country registered a massive slump in December of 2021. This was disclosed in the monthly telecom subscription data released by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
India’s total wireless subscribers decreased from 1,167.50 Mn in November, 2021 to 1,154.62 Mn in December, last year.
Reliance Jio was the worst hit of the lot, as the telecom provider lost 12.9 Mn 4G subscribers during the period. With this, Jio’s gross user base fell to 415.71 Mn.
The slump could likely be attributed to the tariff hike that was enforced in December last year. The 21% hike in tariff plans likely weeded out low paying consumers. Add to that, the massive clean-up of low-paying customers undertaken by the Jio in Q2 appears to have led to decline in user base.
Remember, Jio had added more than 2 Mn in November last year, which was preceded by positive subscriber growth numbers in October. This is the biggest drop in Jio’s numbers since the Mukesh Ambani-led telco lost 19 Mn subscribers in September last year.
The cleanup strategy likely dealt a major blow to Jio as its rural subscriber count fell by a whopping 6 Mn in December last year, to 179.92 Mn. In contrast, competitors suffered fewer losses – Airtel lost 1.18 Mn rural users and Vi lost 0.97 Mn rural subscribers.
Interestingly, Bharti Airtel continues to perform exceedingly well. Airtel added 0.47 Mn wireless customers, taking its gross user base to 355.76 Mn. This comes despite an industry wide slump and saturation.
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On the other hand, cash-strapped Vodafone Idea (Vi) continues its downward trend, losing another 1.61 Mn in December of 2021, lowering its user base further to 265.51 Mn.
Meanwhile, Jio continues its stranglehold over the market with 36% market share, followed by Airtel with 30.81% and Vi with 23%.
The only silver lining from the data was that state telecom provider, BSNL, added the most number of subscribers, at over 1.1 Mn.
Overall, rural subscribers represented 45.15% of the total user count in the wireless market while urban users made up 54.85% of the total subscriber count.
The two dominant players – Jio and AIrtel, have been fighting tooth and nail to survive in the highly competitive and consolidated industry. A lower subscriber count can be made up with a higher Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) and as a result, the telcos target high paying customers to attract more revenue.
This comes right after the government, in Budget documents, conceded that it expects revenue from the telecom sector to fall nearly 27% on a year-on-year basis in FY23.
Despite the challenge, the space seems to be agog with activity. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her Budget speech earlier this month,had announced that the 5G roll out could begin within 2022-23, with the spectrum auction happening this year.
Late last month, Google announced that it will invest up to $1 Bn in Airtel as part of its Google for India Digitisation Fund. This could give the beleaguered the much needed ammo to tackle Jio, which has disrupted the market owing to its deep pockets and dirt cheap plans.
The data presents a gloomy picture of the telecom market but with 5G auctions around the corner, the industry is all geared for its next stage of evolution.