One Third of Total 4G Subscribers in India are from Rural Regions: CMR

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Slowly and steadily India has grown in leaps and bounds when it has been about the expansion of 4G network in the country. Thanks to Reliance Jio, now India is standing at a pedestal and is setting an example as to how rapid and exponential the growth of a network can be. To support similar sentiments, statistics tell the same story. A report by Trai revealed that India had 238 million 4G subscribers by the end of December 2017. Another report by CMR India said 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. The report by CMR also detailed that out of the 238 million subscribers, 83 million were from rural regions which translates to 35 percent of the total crowd, meaning that every 1 in 3 4G subscriber was from rural areas. With proven track record like this, Reliance Jio has registered a notorious growth story.

4G Subscribers in India

While Reliance Jio can be credited for kicking off this growth spurt of the 4G network in the country it has also kicked off an intense competition between the incumbent telcos in the country like Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Vodafone India. A result of this was clearly visible in 2017, as Reliance Jio grew by 122% (88 million) subscribers in the year 2017 totalling its subscriber at 160 million while the incumbent telcos pegged an enormous growth rate of 457% (64 million) as of December 2017, which is more than thrice of what Reliance Jio registered.


“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.

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