NEW DELHI: January’s telecom subscriber data confirms one fact—Reliance Jio’s rivals have found their footing after their costly run-in with the AGR litigation. Not only did Vodafone Idea (Vi) manage to add to its gross subscribers for the first time in over a year, Bharti Airtel continued to beat the Mukesh Ambani-led firm in terms of active subscriber additions—widening the lead it had regained in terms of active subscribers the previous month (December).
While Jio still holds the lead in terms of gross subscribers, its low proportion of active subscribers has left it behind Airtel on the latter front. Brokerage Motilal Oswal notes that Airtel has been consistently improving subscriber additions over the past two quarters, adding 29 million active subscribers since May 2020. This sharp turnaround has helped the company regain the lead in terms of active subscriber market share in January at 34.3 per cent. Jio, in contrast, has lost momentum during the same period, to the point where in December 2020, Airtel wrenched back the top spot in active subscriber base a position it had lost several months earlier.
During January, Airtel has widened the lead. During the month, the company added 6.9 million active subscribers taking its base to 336 million, while Jio’s active subscribers fell by 3.5 million to 325 million.
In contrast, in terms of gross subscribers Jio has a market share of 35.3 per cent, Airtel 29.62 per cent, and Vodafone Idea 24.58 per cent. However, Jio had a significantly worse proportion of active subscribers—a metric in which Airtel scores the highest at 97.1 per cent, followed by Vi at 90.26 per cent, and Jio at 80.23 per cent.
Analysts from Emkay Global Financial Services Ltd say that the strong momentum over the past two quarters should continue to improve Bharti Airtel’s revenue mix and support improvement in the average revenue per user—a key measure of profitability. But they also note that it will be crucial to see how Jio’s numbers perform from this month, due to the new set of cheaper plans it rolled out for its JioPhone customers. “The traction in Jio’s subscriber momentum from March 2021 onwards would be a key event to watch out for,” JM Financial said in a report.