For the first time since 2018, Reliance Jio’s subscriber addition in September dropped below seven million a month, according to data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.
Jio also started reporting wireline numbers with the commercial launch of its fibre services that month.
It reported adding 698,3146 subscribers in September, the lowest since it added 6.1 million in November 2017, after which it grew without a halt. Bharti Airtel reported a dip of about 2.3 million subscribers (2,384,610) and Vodafone Idea by about 2.5 million (2,576,726).
Jio's wireline telephone subscriber base was almost four per cent at month-end, with 857,461 additions. State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam had 47 per cent market share, followed by Airtel at 20 per cent. Jio's landline service is offered complementary with fibre to their home offering, which the operator had started rolling out on a trial basis more than a year before, across the country.
The sector continues to see the severe financial stress which followed the entry of Jio in 2016, with the worst-ever quarterly results for July-September. However, over the past month, Jio has had to reverse some of its free voice call promises. It first introduced interconnect usage charges for calls to other networks and then followed older operators Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel in announcing rate increases. In the past, the latter two had to reduce their rates to match Jio.
The number of telephone subscribers in India rose from 1,191.81 million at the end of August to 1,195.24 mn at the end of September. Urban telephone subscriptions declined from 680.8 mn to 677.95 mn; the rural number rose from 511.02 mn to 517.29 mn in the period. The monthly growth rates were, respectively, minus 0.42 per cent and 1.23 per cent in September.
August subscription data showed active subscriber numbers were hit by the situation in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), with a sharp drop in VLR (Visitor Location Register, containing the location of all mobile subscribers in the service area of a Mobile Switching Centre) users. September data showed the active subscriber base dipping further, with the overall VLR rate dropping to 81.86 per cent; Airtel still led with 92.98 per cent active users.
Of the country's 22 service areas, three – Mumbai, Bihar and J&K -- showed a fall in wireless subscribers during the month. The Odisha service area had the highest growth, 1.1 per cent; J&K had the highest decline, at 1.09 per cent.