As we bid adieu to 2019, a tumultuous year for the telecom sector, there is some good news. According to recent data released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), after ten months of continuous decline and consolidation in the subscriber base, the telecom industry has added 9.7 million gross subscribers in October to reach 1,183 million subscribers. It also saw an addition of 20.3 million active subscribers after an incessant decline since December 2018, to reach 981.2 million subscribers.
A detailed insight by Motilal Oswal Institutional Equities indicates that players are potentially focussing on quality subscribers.
In October 2019, Reliance Jio launched its IUC plans, which supported active/mobile broad-band subscriber run-rate for both Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea. However, Reliance Jio's pace of subscriber addition reflects healthy growth. Further, it announced an IUC plan at the end of October. "Full-month benefit for Bharti or Vodafone Idea should reflect in November 2019," says the MOSL report.
Reliance Jio's gross subscribers grew 9.1 million to 364 million - commanding 30.8 per cent market share. Since February 2019, its active subscribers have been 70 per cent of gross subscribers. However, in October 2019, it was at 1.5x. At a time when Bharti and Vodafone have been focussing on retaining quality customers through minimum recharge plans, Reliance Jio's active subscriber adds remain healthy, the report added. In terms of active subscriber base, it added 14.3 million subscribers along with market share expansion of 80 basis points month-on-month to 31 per cent.
Bharti Airtel, on the other hand, has reversed its declining subscriber trend with 0.1 million gross subscriber adds to reach a total of 326 million subscribers. Its healthy active subscriber base increased by 6.8 million, which indicates the company's focus to improve the quality of its customers, said the report. Further, Bharti has remained at the last position in gross market share (27.5 per cent). It regained its top position in active subscriber market share with 31.5 per cent share, followed by Reliance Jio with 31 per cent share.
Vodafone Idea added meagre 0.2 million gross subscribers to reach 373 million. It lost 0.7 million (compared to 5.9 million in September 2019) active subscribers in October to 302 million. Its market share slipped to the last spot at 30.8 per cent against 31.5 per cent a month earlier. In terms of gross subscribers, the company has maintained its top position with market share of 31.5 per cent. However, Reliance Jio is inching toward the top spot with current market share of 30.8 per cent.