Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea are losing subscribers on a regular note, but in the September quarter, both the telcos together lost more than 10 million subscribers. According to the Trai data for the months of July, August and September, Bharti Airtel lost 2.5 million, 5.6 lakh and 2.3 million subscribers respectively. According to the latest report by ICICI Securities, Airtel lost up to three million customers due to the network shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir. For the unaware, right after the announcement of Article 370 by the Indian government, network services were shut down entirely in the Jammu & Kashmir valley. The exact date was August 4, and so far, the government has ordered to resume postpaid mobile services in the entire valley region.
Airtel Subscriber Base Now Stands at 279.4 Million: ICICI Securities
Despite providing some attractive tariff plans in the industry, Bharti Airtel is unable to retain the subscribers as they are migrating to Reliance Jio. In addition to this, Airtel's woes were even worsened due to entire network shutdown in Jammu & Kashmir. As part of the mobile services ban in Jammu & Kashmir, Airtel lost up to three million customers.
"Bharti Airtel lost about 2.5-3 million customers due to network shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir, which would return on reported base post resumption of services there. On a like to like basis, the net sub addition was zero," the ICICI Securities report said.
The brokerage firm also says the telco' subscriber base stood at 279.4 million at the end of September 2019, with net Quarter-on-Quater (QoQ) addition of 2.6 million. This might surprise many as the Trai data states Airtel lost close to five million subscribers during the same quarter. That said, the ICICI Securities report states that 6.5 million subscribers of Tata Teleservices Ltd (TTSL) were migrated to Airtel network during the quarter.
For now, we're not sure when the mobile services will be fully resumed in Jammu and Kashmir. The government recently confirmed the service would resume on the recommendations of the local administration.
Talking about Vodafone Idea, the report says the telco lost 8.9 million subscribers in the June-September quarter. "We note that this is the fifth consecutive quarter of subscriber base decline given the integration-led challenges and Jammu and Kashmir impact," the report said on the subscriber loss of Vodafone Idea. The telco's overall user base now stands at 320 million.
Tariff Hike in the Industry Likely to Settle Down the Subscriber Loss
By now, everyone is aware that telecom operators will raise tariff prices on December 1, but the real question- how much? Well, don't have an answer for this question, but going by analysts, telcos may raise tariffs by up to 40% and it's completely justifiable, subjected if the telcos concentrate on delivering quality services to the subscribers.
While the tariff hike may bring some stability to the industry, it might settle down the subscriber loss of telcos as well. Right now, a lot of Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel customers are moving onto Reliance Jio or BSNL to enjoy the slight pricing advantage. Reliance Jio may still hold an upper hand in the tariffs department even after the price hike, but Airtel and Vodafone Idea will likely retain their existing subscribers if they manage to provide better service compared to the users. That said, the dual-SIM cardholders who are currently enjoying the cheapest data rates in the world will go away once the new prices come into effect.