scorecardJio is slowing down in the race to 500 million subscribers – a goal set by none other than Mukesh Ambani
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Jio is slowing down in the race to 500 million subscribers – a goal set by none other than Mukesh Ambani

Jio is slowing down in the race to 500 million subscribers – a goal set by none other than Mukesh Ambani
Business2 min read
Sunil Mittal, Mukesh Ambani and Kumar Mangalam Birla.    BCCL
  • Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea lost 19 million and 1.1 million subscribers respectively.
  • Airtel added 0.27 million subscribers in September.
  • Airtel has also announced a tariff hike, paving the way for other telcos to raise prices.
Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio reported a loss of subscribers for the first time since January 2020, continuing the reduction of low-paying users. Airtel reported an increase in subscribers and Vodafone Idea once again lost subscribers.

While Jio lost a huge chunk of subscribers in September, the telco continues to have more active subscribers than Airtel for the third month.

Jio has lost subscribers for the first time since January 2020
Reliance Jio Airtel Vodafone Idea subscriber additions September 2021.
Jio has reported a massive subscriber loss.      TRAI/Business Insider India/Flourish

In September, Reliance Jio lost over 19 million subscribers, compared to an addition of 0.65 million subscribers in August. This has happened because the company has seemingly undertaken a reduction drive of low-paying subscribers.

"During the peak of the second wave, we had done a lot of initiatives... giving free voice minutes to keep them on our network... to keep lifeline [sic] alive. But, two quarters later, we find that a large number of people at the bottom of the pyramid have not been able to stay up-to-date with recharges," said Reliance Jio Infocomm President Kiran Thomas.

This will have an impact on the company’s goal of reaching 500 million subscribers by 2023 that was set by Mukesh Ambani in 2020. Jio now has 424.83 million subscribers, short by just over 75 million subscribers.

On the other hand, Airtel has picked up some pace and reported an addition of 0.27 million subscribers, up from the 0.14 million addition reported in August.

Vodafone Idea continued its decline and lost 1.07 million subscribers, up from 0.83 million in August.

Airtel and Vodafone, despite being behind Jio in terms of absolute numbers, continue to fare better when looked at the rate of active subscribers compared to the total subscribers.

Jio Airtel Vodafone Idea active subs September 2021.
Airtel has the best rate of active subscribers.      TRAI/Business Insider India/Flourish

Jio's rate of active subscribers is 83.65%, which is significantly less than Airtel’s 97.86%. Similarly, Vodafone which despite its continuous decline has a better rate of active subscribers at 87.31%.

Despite the loss of subscribers in September, Jio continues to command a substantial lead over Airtel and Vodafone Idea.

Vodafone Idea, Airtel, Reliance Jio subscribers Sep 2021.
Reliance Jio has the highest number of total subscribers.      TRAI/Business Insider India/Flourish

Reliance Jio now has 424.83 million subscribers, compared to Airtel’s 345.46 million and Vodafone Idea’s 269.99 million.

Reliance Jio also continues to have more active subscribers than Airtel for the third consecutive month and has also been successful in increasing the lead.

Telecom market share (active users) Apr20 - Sep-21.
Active market share.      TRAI/Business Insider India/Flourish

Airtel has announced a tariff hike of up to 25% for its popular prepaid plans and Vodafone Idea is expected to announce a similar change in the coming days. This will further remove the low-paying users and we may see a substantial reduction in users in the coming months.

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