Reliance Jio user base rising rapidly but Vodafone Idea still the telco king in rural India

Kshitij Bhargava

With the entry of Reliance Jio, the Indian telecom industry has seen a dynamic shift in terms of prices and services. Mukesh Ambani's Jio is the market leader when it comes to mobile subscriber base in India, and incumbents such as Bharti Airtel have been forced to follow its lead. Jio has gone from having a 6.4 per cent market share in December 2016 to 32.14 per cent market share as of December 2019, according to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's latest data. However, with all this Reliance Jio is yet to overtake Vodafone Idea, which remains the undisputed king in rural India.

Data provided by TRAI shows that the subscriber base of the troubled Vodafone Idea in rural India stands at 17.2 crore in December 2019, while that of Reliance Jio was at 15.2 crore. Even with the pending Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues, Vodafone Idea holds a 34 per cent market share in rural India, followed by Reliance Jio at 30 per cent, and Bharti Airtel with 28.7 per cent. However, Reliance Jio added 32 lakh rural subscribers month-on-month in November and a further 9 lakh in December, while Vodafone Idea saw 1.96 crore rural subscribers leave in November and another 13 lakh in December.

Both Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel have seen their subscriber bases shrink over the last year. Jio, on the other hand, grew its subscriber base by 51.4 per cent on year. Reliance Jio leads the path with a 32.1 per cent market share when it comes to total subscribers, followed by Bharti Airtel at 28.4 per cent. Total telecom subscribers in India went down by 2.1 per cent in December on-year basis.

In a recent conversation with Satya Nadella of Microsoft, Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani said that the data cost has been reduced to Rs 12-14 per GB now from Rs 300-500 per GB in the pre-Jio days. Reliance Jio remains the only telecom operator to have paid its relatively minuscule Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues in full. Bharti Airtel has paid a total of Rs 10,000 crore towards part of its AGR dues, while Vodafone Idea has been able to cough up a sum of Rs 3,500 crore to the Department of Telecommunications.