India's newest and only profitable telecom operator Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. of three years has overtaken oldest incumbent and rival Bharti Airtel to become the second largest operator in terms of mobile subscriber base, data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) showed on Friday showed. As of May end, Jio had 32.29 crore users as against Airtel's 32.03 crore users.
Vodafone Idea is still at the top position with 38.75 crore users. The subscriber numbers include active and inactive connections.
Jio had entered the sector in September 2016 and disrupted the industry with cheap tariffs, free voice calls forcing other smaller operators to shut shop or get acquired. Reliance Jio added 81.8 lakh new subscribers in May. Vodafone Idea's subscriber base declined by 57 lakh to 32.03 crore in May. Bharti Airtel witnessed a loss of 15.1 lakh subscribers in May, with overall subscriber base standing at 38.75 crore.
The continued sharp erosion in the subscriber base of the two operators is due to a hike in minimum recharge plans, which mandates prepaid customers to recharge their accounts at least monthly to keep the numbers active. This has led low ARPU (average revenue per user) customers to exit.
Reliance Jio, a unit of Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries is pushing subscriber growth by offtake of Jio phones and cheaper monthly plans. The subscriber market share of Reliance Jio rose to 27.80 per cent in May. Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel's market shares stood at 27.6 per cent and 33.3 per cent, respectively, in the same period.