Bharti Airtel, the second-largest telecom operator in India, understands the opportunity that Vodafone Idea's (Vi) tough financial situation has created for it. When it comes to the postpaid segment, only Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel are seen as the two top players with a majority of the market share. While Vi is at the top of the postpaid game here, Airtel seems to have changed it already. According to a CLSA report that appeared around September 2022, Airtel and Vi had around 18 million and 20 million postpaid customers, respectively.
In the recent earnings call, Gopal Vittal, MD and CEO of Bharti Airtel, said that they added 5 million new 4G customers in Q2 while the postpaid segment grew by a net of 300,000 users. He said that Airtel is now the decisive leader in postpaid.
Vittal also said that this is the right moment for Airtel to be pulling ahead as one of the telcos is financially pressed. He, of course, referred to Vodafone Idea, which is its fierce competitor in the postpaid segment. Vittal added that the opportunity is here for Airtel to further take the lead, particularly in the postpaid segment.
Bharti Airtel's ARPU (average revenue per user) figure jumped from Rs 183 in Q1 to Rs 190 in Q2 FY23. The telco has already announced 5G Plus network services for eight cities in the nation. Airtel's 5G Plus network is 5G NSA (non-standalone) and would work on most 5G smartphones in India. All the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are now rolling out OTA (over-the-air) updates for their devices pretty fast to ensure that their devices get support for Airtel as well as Jio's 5G.
By March 2024, Airtel's CEO said that the company expects to cover most part of the urban as well as key rural areas with 5G networks. Jio has said that it will do the same by December 2023.