Pretty much as expected, official figures indicate that March was a bad month for customer retention as far as Indian operators Bharti Airtel and Vodacom Idea are concerned. Reliance Jio Infocomm, however, is still number one.
Indian media outlets have reported that Jio added around 4.68 million mobile phone users in March 2020. The result is a subscriber count of over 387.5 million. Bharti Airtel’s subs count fell by 1.26 million (to 327.81 million), while Vodafone Idea lost 6.35 million customers, hitting 319.16 million. India’s overall mobile user base fell by 2.84 million to nearly 1.158 billion in March.
These are Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) figures, released earlier this week.
What this means in the longer term is unclear. The figures post-date the three companies’ first bundled prepaid tariff rises (of around 14-33 percent) in three years, though it’s hard to say whether that hit subscriber numbers, especially as Jio seems unaffected. However, these figures only relate to the early days of the nationwide lockdown, which may, over time, affect subscriber numbers.
What the TRAI figures do seem to indicate, however, is that Vodafone Idea is at or near third place in the market. While over 300 million is still an impressive customer base, the question is whether this fall is a continuing trend and what the operator can do to stop it. Post-lockdown figures should give a clearer idea, though smartphone component import issues (reported on Monday) could also have a distorting effect on end user figures for a while.
Interestingly, visitor location register (VLR), a metric that reflects the number of active subscribers on a mobile network, may offer some good news for the second and third-placed operators. It suggests that, during the surveyed period, 96.18 percent of users were active on Airtel’s network, 92 percent on Vodafone Idea and only 80.93 percent on the Jio service.