Mobile subscriber base of Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel shrunk by nearly 14.5 million and 15.1 million, respectively, as of March over the previous month, while Reliance Jio added 9.4 million users in the month, according to the TRAI data.
India’s total wireless subscriber base fell to 1,161.8 million on March 31, 2019, shedding 21.87 million users over the previous month. The overall tele-density in India declined to 90.11 at the end of March, from 91.86 in February.
According to TRAI, the wireless subscriber base of Vodafone Idea at the end of March 2019 was 394.8 million. The company in its quarterly results for the last quarter of 2018-19 had shown the total user base at 334.1 million.
Bharti Airtel’s mobile subscriber base was 325.1 million, and that of rival Reliance Jio was 306.7 million as on March 2019.
“Total wireless subscribers declined from 1,183.68 million at the end of Feb-19 to 1,161.81 million at the end of Mar-19, thereby registering a monthly decline rate of 1.85 per cent,” said the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) report released on Tuesday.
The wireless subscription in urban areas declined to 650.49 million in March end from 656.57 million in February end, and rural user base also plunged to 511.32 million from 527.11 million during the period.
Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel together shed 29.6 million users by March-end compared to February.
Market analysts noted that in certain cases, the subscriber tally difference between regulator’s data and those cited by the companies is on account of the different measurement used for computing wireless subscribers base.
While TRAI data takes into consideration live connections in a 90-day period, operators’ calculations are based on active customers as on March 31, 2019, and factors in the impact of minimum recharge plan, market watchers pointed out.
The customers base of Reliance Jio, owned by richest Indian Mukesh Ambani was 306.7 million as on March 2019, against 297.2 million as on February.
Overall , India’s broadband subscriber base rose to 563.1 million in March, swelling 2.37 per cent over the previous month. Jio notched the highest broadband subscriber base of 306.7 million, followed by Airtel (114.6 million), Vodafone Idea (110.2 million) and state owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (22.14 million).
Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel – whose financials have been battered by intense price competition posed by Reliance Jio – have resorted to minimum recharge plans, consciously cleaning off plain vanilla, low-value subscribers.
During its recent quarterly earnings announcement, Vodafone Idea said that it benefitted from the introduction of ‘service validity vouchers’ that require customers to make a minimum recharge of Rs 35.
“As expected, this resulted in a decline of 53.2 million subscribers as ‘Incoming-only’ or ‘Low ARPU’ customers migrated their spending from multiple SIMs to single SIM, taking the overall subscriber base to 334.1 million,” Vodafone Idea statement had then said.
The company had said that its revenues its Average Revenue per User (ARPU) for the just-ended quarter grew 16.3 per cent sequentially to Rs 104 compared to Rs 89 in the third quarter of 2018-19.