India's top telecom operators, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular, have gained VLR subscribers over the past year even as active subscriber base declines for most telcos in absolute numbers. Airtel gained 23 million VLR subscribers over the past year, while Idea Cellular and Vodafone gained 11.9 million and 5.1 million VLR subscribers, respectively, over past one year, India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra) said in its report. These telecom operators, however, have now started reporting subscriber loss in the past three months.
The agency said that Mukesh Ambani-led 4G entrant, Reliance Jio, continues to gain subscribers steadily (4-5 million per month) despite obvious saturation. However, Jio’s active subscriber base was relatively low at 100 million due to its lower active subscribers (measured by peak visitor location register (VLR)) - at 75% in August 2017. Jio had 133 million subscribers by end August 2017.
Ind-Ra said that Jio’s market share gain is largely explained by the dual-SIM phenomenon and rapid loss of market position by the smaller telcos.
The Mukesh Ambani-led telco, which gained quickly after its launch based on free pricing, is now trying to retain the same through discounted tariffs and cash back offers. Jio’s biggest impact has been on data consumption pattern as all its wireless subscribers are by default broadband data subscribers. This has increased not only the absolute number of data subscribers but also its discounted tariffs have increased the data consumption multi-fold.
The agency said that telecom revenues in India plunged by 2% to Rs 1.9 trillion in the fiscal year 20117, reflecting free pricing by Reliance Jio Jio during the second half of the year FY17 and rest of the industry’s response to the same.
It said that the industry revenues could revive over 12-18 months period led by Jio increasing its tariffs, exit of smaller telcos and expansion of the data revenue base, leading to the probability of relatively stable pricing environment with lower competitors per circle. Going forward as tariffs move up, the multiple SIM usages will reduce and Average Revenue Per User per SIM will move up.
Reliance Communications Limited has announced the discontinuation of voice telephony services from December 1, 2017, and to continue providing only 4G data services.