Jio ended July with 400.8 million users, or 35.03% share, of which 78.09% were active users, according to Trai. Bharti Airtel added 3.26 million wireless subscribers to end the month with 319.9 million users, or 27.96% share, of which 97% were active. Vodafone Idea (Vi), however, continued to lose users, giving up 3.72 million subscribers to end July with 301.3 million, or 26.34% share, of which 89.33% were active.
In absolute terms, Jio had some 87.8 million inactive users, compared with Airtel’s 9.5 million Vi’s 32.1 million. Visitor Location Register (VLR) is a temporary database of subscribers who have roamed into the particular area, which it serves. If a subscriber is in active stage i.e. he is able to send/receive calls/SMSs, he is available in VLR, which is used to track active users.
Nitin Soni, senior director at ratings agency Fitch, said: “Jio’s active user base has fallen as many migrants across India were out of work during lockdowns, and perhaps gave up their Jio connections.”
He, though, estimates the 4G operator’s active user base will expand in the next three to four quarters once these migrants leave their villages and return to work in the cities. The situation would improve rapidly if the Covid caseload shrinks and a vaccine arrives by March 2021.
Brokerage Axis Capital had another reason for the higher number of Jio’s inactive users.
“RJio’s all-4G network is used by higher proportion of data-only customers who connect to the network only at specific time of the day. This also includes higher number of Mi-Fi users on RJio’s network. Many of these users may not be included in the peak VLR reported by TRAI if their devices are closed at the time of collecting data,” Axis Capital said. “We estimate this to result in a gap of around 15-20 million users (3-5 percentage points on VLR).
Total wireless subscribers (2G, 3G & 4G) increased from 1,140.71 million at the end of June-20 to 1,144.18 million at the end of July-20, growing 0.30% on month. Overall broadband (wired+wireless) subscriber base increased to 705.40 million from 698.23 million in June. The segment was led by Jio with a 56.98% share, followed by 22.08% for Bharti Airtel and 16.34% for Vi.
With Jio making an aggressive foray into the fixed line broadband segment, and Bharti Airtel trying to keep its lead, the wireline segment showed some growth – 9867 users, as per Trai data.
“In wireline segment, on monthly basis, except circle of B category circle, all categories showed growth rate in their number of wireline subscribers during the month of July, 2020,” the regulator said in its report.