How RCom’s 4G migration helped Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular gain market share

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Bharti Airtel consolidated its market leadership position with 23 bps improvement in market share to 24.6% as of May 2016, followed by Vodafone at 19.1% and Idea at 17.0%. The top three telcos continued to strengthen their position with combined market share of 60.8% as against 58.9% from a year ago, according to ICRA, which said that the majority of this gain in market share has come at the expense of RCom, which is migrating its customers to 4G network.


In terms of total subscribers, while Videocon lost 5.2 million subscribers and RCom lost 1.2 million subscribers in May 2016. Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular collectively gained as many as 1.2 million mobile subscribers in the month of May 2016. Airtel was the biggest gainer with net additions of 2.1 million subscribers followed by state owned telcos BSNL/MTNL with 0.8 million subscriber additions.

In terms of active subscribers too, Airtel was the biggest gainer, gaining 1.79 million active subscribers, but Idea reported a notable loss - 0.38 million active subscribers which follows loss of 1.09 active subscribers in April 2016.

Discontinuation of mobile operations by Videocon and disconnection of CDMA subscribers by RCom resulted in a drop in the country’s total wireless subscriber base in the month of May 2016. This is the first ever decline in the base since September 2013, according to ICRA.

“The total telecom subscriber base has declined from 1059.29 million in April 2016 to 1058.03 million in May 2016 driven mainly by discontinuation of mobile operations by Videocon Telecommunications Limited disconnection of CDMA services by Reliance Communications Ltd. (RCom) and consistent decline in wireline subscribers,” Harsh Jagnani, Vice President Corporate Ratings, ICRA Limited said.

“More importantly, however on the positive side, the broadband subscriber growth has continued to report healthy growth reaching 159.76 million by May 2016. Given that wireless broadband subscribers constitute just 14% of the total wireless subscriber base, we expect that the wireless broadband subscribers will continue to show growth in the medium term. This augurs well for higher penetration of data services in the country, something that the industry is actively targeting,” he added.

The strong growth in wireless broadband subscriber base however continues and bodes well for data penetration in the country. In May 2016, the wireless subscriber base declined to 1033.16 million from 1034.25 million as of April 2016 – a first since September 2013. Mirroring the trend in movement of total subscribers, the active wireless subscriber base declined by 1.56 million in May 2016 to 932.5 million.

With the shutdown of operations of Videocon which had majority customers in Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Gujarat circles, the total urban wireless subscriber base declined from 586.4 million as of April 2016 to 584.25 million as of May 2016, while the rural wireless subscriber base continued its upward trajectory to reach 448.90 million.

Also read: India’s Biggest CDMA Shutdown by RCom was Nothing but A Big Mess

However, the key positive development for the industry has been the continued traction in broadband subscriber base. The broadband subscriber base in the country reported a yearly growth of 52% to reach 159.76 million as of May 2016. Out of this, 142.60 million are wireless broadband subscribers which reported y-o-y growth of 60%. ICRA expects this segment to continue showing healthy growth.

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