One telco's loss is another telco's gain. December 2020 data of telecom operators shows that Reliance Jio lost subscribers in the states of Haryana and Punjab, while rivals Vodafone Idea (Vi) and Bharti Airtel gained. Jio's loss of subscribers comes amid the raging farmers' protest in the two states.
Jio lost subscribers only in these two states while it gained in the rest. Meanwhile, Vodafone Idea lost subscribers in almost every state and Airtel gained in most.
Jio had over 94.48 lakh subscribers in Haryana in November that dipped to over 89.07 lakh in December. On the other hand, Airtel had over 49.56 lakh subscribers in Haryana in November that increased to over 50.79 lakh subscribers in December. Vodafone Idea had over 80.23 lakh subscribers that increased to over 80.42 lakh.
In Punjab, Jio had over 1.40 crore subscribers in November that decreased to 1.24 crore in December. Vodafone Idea had over 86.42 lakh subscribers in November that increased to 87.11 lakh in December, while Airtel had over 1.05 crore subscribers that increased to over 1.06 crore.
State-run BSNL has also increased subscribers in both Punjab and Haryana in December. Reliance Jio was the only large telco to lose subscribers in both these states.
Mukesh Ambani-helmed Jio's loss of subscribers coincides with the backlash it received during the farmers' protest. Farmers alleged that the Modi government favoured big business groups such as Reliance Industries (RIL) and Adani Group. Unions have said that Reliance Industries was purchasing vast stretches of land in Haryana and Punjab where they were allegedly planning to undertake contract farming and set up private mandis. Both RIL and Adani Group have denied the allegations.
Meanwhile, calls to boycott Reliance Jio emerged as an offshoot of the backlash against RIL. Towers of Reliance Jio, its optical fiber material and other infrastructure were attacked amid the backlash. In a letter to telecom regulator Jio accused Airtel and Vi of running an unethical campaign against the company as a large number of subscribers ported out. "This is further to our aforementioned letter dated 28 September 2020 highlighting the unethical and anti competitive MNP campaign, being run by Airtel and Vi to capitalize on the ongoing farmers protests in the northern parts of the country," said Jio in a letter dated December 11.
Calling the allegations outrageous, Airtel said, "We have seen a history of Jio going to any length to make baseless allegations, adopt bullying tactics and use intimidatory behaviour to suit their purposes and meet their goals. This is another such instance."