Airtel overtakes RJio in subscriber base growth in August 

RJio continues to be leader; Industry ARPU started growing

By Renji C

MUMBAI/November 27-2020: The growth in subscriber base of Bharti Airtel Ltd at 2.9  million, has surpassed that of Reliance Jio Infocom Ltd (RJio) with a growth of 1.9 million during August, 2020.

At the same time, Vodafone Idea Ltd (VIL) continued to lose subscribers even in August 2020, down by 1.2 million, according to analysis done by India Ratings & Research (Ind-Ra).

The industry-wide subscriber base has recovered with unlocking, with continuous growth for the second month in row after declining during March to June 2020.

Ind-Ra believes that the visitor location register subscriber base data, which represents the active subscribers in the overall wireless subscriber base and the growth in the industry revenue, are the more appropriate indicators, which need to be monitored over the next six to nine months.

Data tariffs & broadband penetration up

The number of broadband subscribers has increased to 61 per cent of the overall wireless subscriber base in August 2020 from 60 per cent in July 2020 and 47 per cent in March 2019.

In August 2020, the number of broadband subscribers grew by 10.5 million, attributable to all the major telcos, namely Airtel, RJio and VIL.

ARPU growing

This along with a rise in data tariffs reflects that the Indian telecom industry is moving towards a higher average revenue per user (ARPU) regime.

The tariff differentials for the pre-paid and post-paid tariff plans among the telcos are already narrowing down over the past one year, and the post-paid tariff plans announced by RJio two months ago indicate the inclination of the largest player in the industry towards the same.

Revenue grows

As per the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) data, the industry-wide revenue grew in Q2, FY21. This is the fourth quarter in a row wherein the industry-wide revenue has shown growth.

This was supported by the industry-wide tariff hikes implemented in December 2019, offsetting the interim decline in subscriber base during the lockdown. All the three large telcos reported an increase in their revenue during the second quarter of the current financial year (FY21).

RJio leader by far

RJio continues to be the largest player in the Indian telecom industry in terms of subscriber market share (SMS) and revenue market share (RMS).

RJio keeps garnering the market share largely at the expense of VIL. RJio held SMS of 35.1 per cent in August 2020 and RMS of 38.2 per cent in the second quarter ending September 30, 2020.

While Airtel has shown resilience and its overall wireless SMS increased, albeit moderately to 28.1 per cent in August 2020 from 28 per cent in July 2020, VIL continues to lose SMS (August 2020: 26.1 per cent; July 2020: 26.3 per cent).

RJio also had a dominant market share of 58.1 per cent in the broadband segment (as against 17.2 per cent% for VIL and 22.9 per cent for Airtel), since all of RJio customers are in the broadband category.


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