India’s three largest operators have held their ground against the aggressive tactics of newcomer 4G operator Reliance Jio.
Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular only saw minor drops in their overall subscriber numbers despite contending with Jio’s September launch which saw it rapidly attract subscribers by offering free voice and data services via extended promotions. Collectively, the operators in fact added 33.6 million new subscribers across Q4 and Q1.
Since the end of September, Airtel has seen its market share drop by just 1.3%, falling from 24.6% to 23.3%. Despite losing part of its market share, the operator actually increased its user base by 5.2% for the six month period leading up to 31st March 2017, adding 13.3 million subscribers in this time to end Q1 with 271.3 million connections.
Second-placed Vodafone India lost the same percentage of its market share in the past six months, dropping to a 17.85% share at the end of March. Similarly to Airtel, it also increased its subscriber totals during this period, adding 5.8 million new connections for a total of 220 million – up by 2.8%.
The fastest growth of the Big Three was recorded by third-placed Idea Cellular, which saw its share fall by less than half a percentage point. In the past six months, it saw 14.5 million new subscribers, bringing its overall base to 193.3 million for a 16.6% share.
Reliance Jio launched nationwide 4G in September, and by the end of Q1 2017 had a total of 108.8 million subscribers, with 36.5 million added during the first quarter. This puts its market share at 9.3%.
However, while Jio’s entry to the market may not have had a calamitous impact on the Big Three operators’ market share, the newcomer’s free data offers have had an adverse effect on its rivals’ balance sheets. Both Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular saw major losses between January and March.
Last month, the Indian Department of Telecommunications (DoT) requested that the country’s finance ministry lower the estimated non-tax revenue that it intended to collect from operators for the current fiscal year. The DoT claimed that heavy debt and fiercely competitive discounting were causing massive drops in operator revenue.