Reliance Jio adds 4.4 mn users, Vodafone Idea down by 4.8 mn in June

While Jio added 4.4 million, Vi slipped by 4.8 million subscribers. Bharti Airtel’s drop was lower at 1.1 million users.
Reliance Jio continued to race ahead in subscriber addition, while Vodafone Idea (Vi) lost a significant user base in June, the latest data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) shows. 

While Jio added 4.4 million, Vi slipped by 4.8 million subscribers. Bharti Airtel’s drop was lower at 1.1 million users.

In June, 5.83 million subscribers submitted their request for mobile number portability.

The country’s overall wireless subscriber base shrunk by 0.28 per cent to 1.14 billion at the end of June, recording a decline in both urban and rural areas. The share of urban and rural mobile subscribers was pegged at 54.3 per cent and 45.7 per cent, respectively.

With this, the tally of Jio, which had started off four years ago, rose to 397.24 million. In a sharp contrast, Vi, which announced its rebranding recently, has declined 30.8  per cent from the time of the merger between Vodafone and Aditya Birla Group’s Idea Cellular in 2018, primarily due to the high-pitched competition in the telecom sector. 

The combined subscriber base of the two telcos at the time of amalgamation was 441 million. The latest Trai data puts the Vi subscriber base at 305 million. Airtel’s subscriber base is slightly higher at 317 million as of June.      

On September 8, Vodafone Idea became ‘Vi’ in a rebranding exercise, which marked the final lap of the merger between the two companies.

On August 31, 2018, Vodafone India merged with Idea Cellular, to form Vodafone Idea Limited. 

Vodafone currently holds 45.1 per cent in the combined entity, while Aditya Birla Group has a 26-per cent stake.

“Uncertainty on the AGR (adjusted gross revenue) matter, absolute liabilities on this, continuing losses, and cash flow pressures prevented network upgradation which impacts quality of service (call drops, etc). These factors lead to subscribers moving out due to both push and pull factors,” Hemant Joshi, an independent telecom analyst, said.

In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court has allowed telcos to pay their AGR-related dues over a period of 10 years, providing some relief to the financially stressed Vi. The telco owes over Rs 50,400 crore as dues to the government.

“The cash crunch clearly hurt investment in the expansion and upgrade of the network. This, along with fears of its exit from the market, led to loss of subscribers and difficulty in adding new ones,” another analyst Mahesh Uppal said.

Some experts, however, believe that Vi’s  subscriber base plummeted after the merger because a lot of customers using two SIM cards, switched to one.

There is a silver lining though, “I expect the Vi situation to improve in the short-term. The limited reprieve from the Supreme Court to allow it to repay its AGR dues in 10 years, will help, even if it does not yet guarantee Vi’s survival,’’ Uppal said. 

Also, the company would want to focus on revenues more, he pointed out.

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