India’s the fastest growing 4G nation in the world, thanks to Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio. As per the latest data released by Trai, India had 238 million 4G subscribers by the end of December 2017. As per a report by CMR India, it’s expected that India to have 300 million 4G subscribers by the end of 2017, which will be largely driven by feature phones and Reliance Jio. Alongside this, CMR also pointed out that JioPhone shall play a critical role in increasing the penetration of Jio 4G services in rural India. Of the 238 million 4G subscribers, 83 million of them are coming from rural areas, meaning 35% of the total subscribers aka 1 out of 3 4G subscribers in the country is from the rural territory.
Reliance Jio has increased the 4G penetration in India, but at the same time, It also made the incumbents like Airtel, Vodafone and Idea to ramp up their technology resulting in they also investing in 4G networks. As a consequence, while Jio being the 4G leader operator with 160 million subscribers at the end of December 2017, it only managed to increase 122% (88 million) subscribers in the year 2017, as against 457% (64 million) by the incumbent mobile operators.
“Though laggards, incumbents have managed to increase their 4G subscriber base 3.8 times more than the disruptor operator Jio during 2017. This could be attributed to incumbents aligning their 4G offering to that of Jio in terms of price as well as content,” said Faisal Kawoosa, Head – New Initiatives, CMR.
During the same time, incumbent operators have focussed on rural markets, which ultimately contributed to their growth in 4G. “The early adaptors were leveraged by Jio primarily in the urban space, and as incumbent operators got ready with their 4G in full scale, they focused on rural markets to look for growth,” added Faisal.
The analysis further pointed that as against 26% rural subscribers using Jio 4G, incumbents had 53% of their 4G subscribers added in the rural market.
Going forward, CMR expects that JioPhone shall play a critical role in increasing the penetration of Jio 4G services in rural India. Also, the report cites that 58 million will be using a 4G feature phone, of course, the Reliance JioPhone will dominate that section. The remaining 81% of the subscribers will be using 4G over a smartphone including the ones based on Android Oreo Go that are optimised for lower configuration smartphones.
Also, by 2020, 35% of the 4G subscribers would be using a feature phone taking the overall 4G subscriber count to 432 million in India.