India’s telecom sector has undergone significant transformations over the past seven years, particularly with the disruptive entry of Reliance Jio in 2016. The recent introduction of 5G services has further intensified the competition, with Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel leading the race in monthly subscriber additions. In sharp contrast, Vodafone Idea has consistently been losing its subscribers, reaching an all-time low in August 2023.
The total number of telephone subscribers in India reached 1.18 billion by the end of August 2023, according to the latest data by TRAI. A whopping 97.4% of them were wireless telephone subscribers (mainly mobile users), totalling 1.15 billion. The wireless segment recorded a monthly growth rate of 0.19%, welcoming around 2.19 million new subscribers in August.
Now, let’s dig deeper to uncover which telecom provider has gained the most mobile subscribers and which has suffered the most significant losses.
Top Telecom Providers in India by Mobile Subscribers
- Reliance Jio maintains its position as India’s largest telecom provider, with a 38.8% market share. Jio added 3.25 million mobile subscribers in the month of August, taking the total count to 445.73 million. In the last 12 months, Jio acquired 26.49 million new mobile subscribers on its network.
- Bharti Airtel holds a 32.78% share of the Indian telecom market as of August 2023, securing its position as the second-largest provider after Jio. Airtel’s mobile subscriber count reached 376.46 million by the end of August 2023, with a monthly net addition of 1.22 million and a yearly addition of 12.65 million.
- Vodafone Idea has been losing its subscriber base in the mobile space. The telecom provider lost 49,782 mobile subscribers in August 2023, bringing the total number of subscribers down to 228.28 million. However, it was the lowest monthly user loss for Vodafone Idea since its inception as a merged entity in late 2018. This indicates the company’s constant efforts to retain its subscribers by offering cost-effective plans, which include a Disney+ Hotstar subscription along with extra data. In the last 12 months, the telecom operator lost 24.86 million mobile users in India. Despite these challenges, VI remains India’s third-largest telecom provider, with a 19.9% market share in the wireless segment.
- In the midst of this telecom turbulence, state-owned BSNL, MTNL, and Reliance Com faced their share of challenges. BSNL, with an 8.35% market share, bid farewell to 2.23 million subscribers. MTNL, with a modest 0.17% market share, lost 4,280 subscribers, and Reliance Com, with a minuscule 0.0002% market share, saw 123 subscribers part ways in August 2023.
Vodafone Idea Facing Technological Headwinds
Technological advancements, coupled with the introduction of faster networks by competitors, are the primary forces enticing customers away from Vodafone Idea, BSNL, and other telecom providers. The absence of 5G services, a hallmark offered by rivals like Airtel and Jio, emerges as a pivotal factor in the consistent subscriber erosion.
As an increasing number of Indians, particularly from tier 2 and tier 3 cities, are purchasing high-tech smartphones, it is essential to have fast internet connectivity for activities like streaming OTT content, playing games, making UPI payments, doing online shopping, etc. In the midst of this digital revolution, Vodafone Idea finds itself in a fierce tussle with industry stalwarts Airtel and Jio.
According to the OpenSignal report, Airtel and Jio are winning the hearts of Indians by providing the best quality of experience, including network availability, coverage, 5G mobile download and upload speed, and live gaming experience. Jio claims the top spot in mobile network coverage with an impressive 8.8 points on a 10-point scale. Airtel secures the second position with a score of 6.6 points, while Vodafone Idea (VI) lags behind at 3.4 points.
When it comes to download speeds, Jio leads the pack with an average of 52.9Mbps, nearly twice as fast as Airtel users and a substantial 3.4 times faster than VI users.
Beyond the technical aspects, the financial health of a telecom company, coupled with regulatory challenges and uncertainties about its future, can significantly impact customer confidence, potentially influencing their decisions to switch to other providers.
Which telecom provider are you using currently, and does it meet your expectations? Let us know in the comment section below!