While Jio has an edge in terms of coverage, Bharti has an advantage when it comes to attracting high-data usage customers in urban areas because it has been able to create capacity.
The subscriber addition trends for June and July show that while incumbent Bharti Airtel is catching up well with Reliance Jio on the 4G front, Vodafone Idea is losing out. For incumbents like Bharti Airtel and Vi, the real challenge is to be able to migrate their 2G subscribers to 4G. Jio, which started out in September 2016 as a fully 4G network, has an advantage on this front.
The latest trend in the 4G customer addition front clearly establishes the strong points of Jio and Bharti. While Jio has an edge in terms of coverage, Bharti has an advantage when it comes to attracting high-data usage customers in urban areas because it has been able to create capacity. However, Vodafone Idea needs to invest in its network to create more capacity or else it would continue to face subscriber churn.
According to telecom analysts, for every migration of a 2G subscriber to 4G, the upside on Arpu is around Rs 30-40 a month. So, if Bharti is able to maintain the trend, it can see a good growth in its Arpu in the next few months. The other advantage from being able to migrate 2G users to 4G is that the company can free up its 900 Mhz band spectrum so that it can be used solely to offer high-speed 4G services.
Figures released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) for July show that Bharti Airtel added — by way of new additions as well as upgrades from 2G — 4.4 million 4G subscribers to end with 153 million 4G users. Its market share in the segment thus stands at 22.4%, up 50 bps month-on-month. Jio added 3.6 million subscribers to end with 401 million users with a market share of 58.5%, down 10 bps m-o-m. Vodafone Idea lost 1.2 million 4G subscribers to end with 115 million users with a market share of 16.8%, down 40bps m-o-m.
This is the second consecutive month when Bharti was able to add more 4G users than Jio — in June, Bharti had added by way of new additions as well as upgrades 5.3 million whereas Jio had added 4.5 million.