The Telecom Regulator’s subscriber addition numbers for November showed that new operator Reliance Jio continued to lead the charts in terms of net subscriber addition, but rivals like Idea Cellular and Vodafone too have come back on the growth path.
Part of the reason for the reversal in the fortunes of Idea and Vodafone could be the shutting down of Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications.
The company’s network had started becoming patchy during the month as it struggled to stay afloat amid mounting losses and debt.
As a result, 26 million (2.6 cr) out of the 61 mln wireless users of RCom ditched the company during November.
As for the winners, Reliance Jio — led by Anil’s brother Mukesh — continued to lead the chart with net additions of 6.12 mln subscribers, taking its total to 152 mln. Out of these, 123.8 mln were ‘switched on’ users.
Jio leading the charts in November was hardly surprising, given that millions of ‘Jiophones’ — or semi-smart phones priced at rock bottom prices — were delivered to its subscribers by the company in November.
What will be more crucial will be subscriber additions in December.
It is estimated that Jio’s net additions fell sharply in December as there were no Jiophone sales during the month.
The company could see its net additions fall to 2-3 mln range in December, and may have lost the No.1 position after holding it for nearly 1 year.
In this regard, Jio did slash its tariffs sharply in early January — a move that has been taken as an indication of flagging growth by some analysts.
Meanwhile, in November, Bharti Airtel added a surprisingly robust 4.34 mln subscribers, while Vodafone added 2.7 mln and Idea added 3.2 mln.
However, worryingly for Bharti Airtel — it lost 2.2 mln would-be subscribers in the form of Tata DoCoMo users. Airtel is all set to take over Tata DoCoMo subscribers over the next 3-4 months.
By the end of November, the total mobile users on Tata DoCoMo had fallen to 38 mln from 40.2 mln in the previous month. If losses continue, Airtel could end up with hardly any active Tata DoCoMo subscribers when it takes over the operations.
To arrest the rapid decline, Tata DoCoMo has started offering unlimited 3G data at Rs 178 per month using Airtel’s network.
Among the other players, Aircel Cellular saw a loss of 0.67 mln users to end up with 87.59 mln users, while BSNL added 1.08 mln users to end up with 107.49 mln at the end of November.
Net net, there was a loss of 15.73 mln wireless users in November between all operators.