We’ve mentioned Vodafone Idea subscriber losses a few times in the past twelve months. Now the Indian press suggests that a continuing decline in customer numbers is worrying the joint venture's partners, the Aditya Birla Group and Vodafone Group.
Latest figures indicate that the Indian carrier has lost about 20 million subscribers in the two quarters to March, with estimates suggesting a further 15 million subscribers will be added to the losses when figures are announced for the quarter ending 30 June.
The latest figures add to the woes of a company still looking for a sum of around $6 billion to pay its remaining adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues – and hoping to do so, if the Indian Supreme Court agrees, over some 20 years.
However, where the money could be found both to stem subscriber losses and to pay off existing debts is now hard to say.
Delayed AGR payments would, of course, be welcome. But keeping up with Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel could involve greater investment in the Vodafone Idea network and pumping money into competing more forcefully with these aggressive rivals.
Vodafone Idea subscriber numbers, said to be about 291 million at the end of March, are hardly small, but they were over 400 million in mid-2018. By now the total may even have fallen below Airtel’s figure, which was 284 million in March.
We already know that Vodafone Group is not keen to add equity to the joint venture and, say local press reports, Aditya Birla Group has other financial challenges to deal with. Outside investment might help, but Jio has clearly been seen as a more attractive partner for overseas investors in recent months.