Airtel, Jio and Voda lose active subscribers in April


After losing consumers in April 2020 during the covid-19 lockdown, telecom carriers saw a fall in active subscribers in April 2022, the second time in a decade. 

“This is only the second time in the last ten years that all operators have seen a decrease in active subscribers. If this pattern continues, it could signal sim consolidation in the face of rising tariffs.” Following the release of subscriber statistics by the sector regulator, Jeffries analysts wrote a note to investors. 

Due to SIM consolidation or consumers turning off second SIMs, telco active subscribers declined by 7 million to 1,014 million in April, the largest drop in the last ten months, according to sector watchers. 

According to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) data released on Thursday, all providers lost active users in April compared to March, with Jio losing the fewest at 0.1 million, while Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea lost 3.1 million and 3.8 million active consumers, respectively. 

Overall, Jio’s subscriber addition pace improved month over month, whereas Bharti’s strong momentum from preceding months appears to have slowed in April, according to Navin Killa, managing director at UBS. 

Jio remained the market leader, with a 35.5 percent subscriber market share, up 10 basis points month over month, followed by Bharti Airtel with a 31.6 percent share and flat additions month over month in April. Vodafone Idea had a 22.7 percent market share at the end of April, down 10 basis points from the previous month. 

The sector’s active subscriber gains have been modest at 20 million since March 2021, but Jio has outperformed with 47 million user additions vs. Bharti’s 8 million, owing to Jio’s discount and Bharti’s significant rate hike in the prepaid voice segment, according to Jeffries analysts. 

In terms of active subscribers, Jio gained 30 basis points, while Vodafone Idea and Bharti lost 20 and 5 basis points, respectively. 

Analysts believe Jio’s subscriber cleansing has concluded, with inactive subscribers remaining stable at 24-27 million from February to April. This could result in greater reported subscriber increases for Jio in the future. “Jio’s active subscriber additions leadership and Bharti’s ARPU focus auger positively for the sector’s tariff outlook,” Jeffries said. 

Jio was also the only provider to gain users in both rural and urban areas, whereas VIL lost subscribers on both counts. According to Naval Seth, an analyst at Emkay India Equity Research, the sluggish subscriber addition trends can be related to pricing hikes in November 2021 and increasing smartphone inflation. 

Jio was the only operator to record increases in both urban and rural subscribers, while the rest of the industry’s mix remained unchanged. Bharti’s urban customer base shrank somewhat, while Vodafone Idea lost both urban and rural users. Jio maintained its lead with 56 percent of urban users, followed by Bharti with 52 percent and Vodafone Idea with 50 percent. 

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