Vodafone Idea (Vi) has been struggling to hold its ground against the competition from Airtel and Jio. It is no hidden information that Vi has been unable to control its subscriber churn rate over the last few quarters. One of the biggest reasons which I anticipate would play a role in shrinking the subscriber base of Vi further is no 5G rollout. Forget the 5G rollout; the telco is even refraining from commenting on when we could expect its 5G to come. At this point, there are Jio and Airtel customers who are enjoying unlimited 5G at no additional cost if they are paying for 4G services. Now that's a tough thing for Vi to beat.
Much recently, Jio and Airtel also announced new postpaid plans that deliver more value to customers who are looking to get additional SIMs for their families. Along with that, even these postpaid subscribers can use unlimited 5G data. Now how does a company like Vi compete here? It is worth acknowledging that Vi is the largest postpaid player in the country when it comes to mobile services. But that could change over time regardless of how loyal the postpaid users are in nature.
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At the end of the day, every loyal customer is smart enough to understand that he/she is probably not getting the same benefits as the customers of the other telcos for the same amount of money. Now that's a pretty heavy feeling to have as a customer. In the short term, we could see a flip in retail postpaid connections of Vi going towards Airtel or Jio. One thing that is worth considering here is that postpaid subscribers are not just the consumers like prepaid customers. Postpaid users are also enterprises purchasing connections for their employees and IoT (internet of things) products.
Being one of the prominent players in the enterprise space in the telecom industry, Vi would know that if it can launch 5G in the short term, it would likely hold its position as the top player in the postpaid space. But, when it comes to direct retail consumers like you and me, it would be hard for us to stay with a company for long that doesn't give us 5G when the competitors are offering it for no extra cost.
The new postpaid plans that both Jio and Airtel have announced seem really good in value. That might make a difference in the postpaid subscriber base of the two telcos in the near future. However, it is true that postpaid subscribers aren't large in numbers as they mostly make up for the minority in the Indian markets. But they also are high average revenue per user (ARPU) customers, which the telcos wouldn't want to lose.