The entry of Reliance Jio in the Indian telecom sector has significantly impacted the industry dynamics. Since its launch in 2016, Jio has disrupted the market by offering affordable data plans and free voice calls, leading to a rapid increase in mobile subscribers in India. The number of telecom subscribers in India, including wireless and wireline, reached 1172.34 million in March 2023, showing a 0.21% MoM and 0.46% YoY growth. Mobile accounted for an impressive 97.6% of the overall telecom subscriber base, totalling 1143.93 million.
Reliance Jio continues to sit at the numero uno position, capturing a 37.6% share of wireless telecom subscribers in India as of March. The number of Jio mobile subscribers reached an all-time high of 430.23 million (43 crore) in March 2023.
Reliance Jio eating into Vodafone Idea market
Reliance Jio, the leading telecommunications provider in India, has consistently demonstrated remarkable success in attracting an expanding customer base. Jio wireless subscribers count skyrocketed due to noteworthy surge of 3.05 million (30.5 lakh) wireless subscribers during March alone, and an impressive 26.24 million (2.62 crore) surge over the course of the last 12 months, ended March 31, 2023.
During the last fiscal year, between March 20222 and March 2023, Reliance Jio’s share in the mobile telecom market increased from 35.4% to 37.6%. This substantial growth underscores Jio’s adeptness at adapting to the ever-changing demands of customers and cultivating their unwavering loyalty in the fiercely competitive Indian telecommunications landscape. Jio’s unwavering commitment to delivering customer-centric services and competitive product offerings has played a pivotal role in propelling its market share expansion.
In contrast, Vodafone Idea (VI) continued to struggle despite all the claims and strategic moves the company has made to seize its downfall. The number of wireless subscriber base of Vodafone India continued to decline. The wireless subscribers of Vodafone Idea totalled 236.75 million in March 2023, registering a loss of 1.21 million (12.1 lakh) in just one month. Over a 12-month period, whopping 24.02 million (2.4 crore) mobile subscribers of Vodafone Idea migrated from its network.
As a result, Vodafone Idea’s share in India’s wireless telecom subscribers nosedived from 22.8% in March 2022 to 20.7% in March 2023. This change highlights the challenges faced by VI in retaining its subscriber base and competing in the highly competitive Indian telecom market.
In the quarterly race of acquiring new mobile subscribers, Reliance Jio emerged as the clear winner, adding an impressive 5.71 million (57.1 lakh) subscribers in the first three months of 2023. In stark contrast, Vodafone Idea lost 4.57 million (45.7 lakh) subscribers during the same period.
Bharti Airtel, India’s second-largest telecom provider, onboarded 1.04 million (10.4 lakh) new mobile subscribers in March 2023, taking the total to 370.91 million. For 3 months and 12 months, Sunil Mittal-led telecom company added an impressive 3.3 million (33 lakh) and 10.58 million (1.06 crore) wireless telecom subscribers, respectively.
As a result, Airtel Bharti’s market share increased from 31.55% in March 2022 to 32.42% in March 2023. The steady addition of subscribers and a slightly expanded market share demonstrate Airtel’s ability to attract and retain customers in the Indian telecom market, positioning it as a formidable competition to the industry leader Reliance Jio.
The rapid growth of India’s top two telecom providers can be attributed to the introduction of 5G services in late 2022. In the last six months, Reliance Jio has successfully launched its 5G services in approximately 406 cities across 32 Indian states and union territories. Airtel, on the other hand, has expanded its 5G coverage to around 500 cities.
Broadband subscribers in India
The landscape of broadband services has revolutionized the digital realm, capturing an astounding 72.2% share of the total telecom subscribers in India. As of March 2023, the nation proudly boasted an astonishing 846.57 million broadband users. Among the industry titans, Reliance Jio leads the charge with a formidable subscriber base of 438.56 million, firmly establishing its dominance.
Bharti Airtel secures the second position with a loyal following of 241.90 million broadband customers, while Vodafone Idea continues to make its presence felt with a substantial subscriber count of 124.83 million.
In contrast, BSNL, the state-owned provider, experienced a decline in its broadband subscriber base, which dropped from 27.19 million in March 2022 to 25.37 million in March 2023. To regain its competitive edge and appeal to a wider audience in the dynamic digital era, BSNL must formulate strategic plans and adapt accordingly.
Vodafone Idea’s Battle in the Telecom Industry
In the midst of a fierce tariff war and declining margins in the telecom industry, Vodafone and Idea made the strategic decision to merge in mid-2018. The merger of Vodafone and Idea carried significant potential, with the aim of positioning the consolidated entity as India’s leading telecommunications provider, surpassing Bharti Airtel. However, the actual outcome was much of a disappointment.
In March 2018, Vodafone had 222.70 million wireless subscribers, while Idea had 211.21 million. Surprisingly, the merger marked the beginning of a troublesome trend. In August 2018, Idea experienced its first monthly loss of 3.44 million (34.36 lakh) mobile subscribers, followed by Vodafone’s loss of 2.63 million (26.26 lakh) in September 2018.
To the surprise of many, this pattern of monthly subscriber attrition persisted even after the merger of the two telecom giants.
In September 2018, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) reported a 6.69 million (66.88 lakh) M-o-M loss of VI mobile subscribers in India, reducing the total count to 434.96 million. The decline continued, and by September 2022, VI’s wireless subscriber count had dwindled to a mere 249.13 million, with a monthly loss of 4.01 million (40.12 lakh) subscribers.