Reliance Jio, which launched its fourth-generation technology (4G) telecom services on September 5 last year, has been mostly an urban phenomenon.
Of its 72.16 million subscribers by end-December 2016, only 4.12 mn or 5.72 per cent were from rural areas, in contrast to incumbent operators.
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) data for 2016 show Idea
Cellular with the highest proportion of rural subscribers at 54.77 per cent followed by Vodafone
with 53.68 per cent and Bharti Airtel
at 48.42 per cent.
At the end of December, Idea
had a subscriber base of 190.52 million, of which 104.35 mn were rural subscribers. Vodafone’s was 204.82 mn, of which 109.94 mn were rural subscribers.
The overall base for Airtel
was 269.68 mn; its rural subscribers were 130.57 mn.
In market share, Jio
had 0.89 per cent of rural subscribers. Airtel
is the top one, with 28.09 per cent of rural subscribers, followed by Vodafone
with 23.66 per cent and Idea
Cellular with 22.45 per cent.
The incumbent operators have said their subscribers in rural areas mostly use feature phones and are reliant on the 2G network.
In overall wireless subscriber base, Jio's market share was 6.4 per cent by end-December 2016. The share of incumbent operators had shrunk, with that of Reliance down to 7.68 per cent, from 9.98 per cent a year before; that of Tata Teleservices fell to 4.7 per cent, from 6.01 per cent.
The three big incumbents saw their share fall marginally. Airtel’s fell to 23.58 per cent, from 24.07 per cent; Vodafone’s was down to 18.16 per cent, from 19.15 per cent; Idea
Cellular shrank to 16.90 per cent, from 17.01 per cent. Telenor's went to 4.83 per cent from the earlier 5.02 per cent.
Interestingly, despite Jio’s free services, which impacted the big private operators, state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam's market share increased marginally to 8.59 per cent by end-2016, from 8.16 per cent a year before.
India's wireless subscriber base increased to 1,127 mn at the end of December 2016, from 1,010 mn a year before, growth of 11.5 per cent.