Loss-making Vi lost 3.4 million active customers, while Reliance Jio’s modest additions were sharply below the 4.6 million reported in August, Motilal Oswal said, analysing September subscriber data put out by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai).
“Airtel captured the lion’s share of Vi’s subscriber losses, indicating that subscriber churn is taking place,” the brokerage said in a note to clients.
Brokerage ICICI Securities said Jio’s active subscriber market share was largely flat at 33.2% month-on-month with 318 million users, while Bharti Airtel fast catching up with a 33% share, up 35 basis points (bps) on month with 316 million subscribers (up from 313 million), while Vi’s dipped 40 bps to 27.2%, at 261 million (265 million).
As per Trai’s latest Visitor Location Register or `VLR’ data — a key metric reflecting the actual number of subscribers actively using a mobile network, 78.76%, or 86 million, of Jio’s users were active compared with nearly 97% of Airtel’s and 88.4% for Vi’s. Despite Airtel’s strong active user additions, India’s overall active mobile user base grew by a modest 1 million to 958 million in September, dragged down by Vi’s losses and Jio’s slowdown on this score.
Trai data also showed that mobile number porting (MNP) requests jumped to 8.7 million in September, the highest since March 2018. “This could be a negative sign for Vi, as our checks show Airtel and Jio have been offering attractive offers in certain markets to port consumers to their networks,” said brokerage BNP Paribas.ICICI Securities said the MNP churn rate had risen to 0.8% in September vs the 0.5%, pre-Covid level. “MNP churn remains high and we see Airtel poised to gain from it”.
Global ratings agency Fitch recently estimated that Vi could lose another 50-to-70 million customers in the next one year, having already lost around 155 million users in the past nine quarters.
Analysts say the steady fall in Vi’s active users base is primarily due to its weak network capabilities compared to its financially-stronger rivals, noting that its Rs 1,040 crore capex in the September quarter was way below Airtel’s Rs 6,790 crore and Jio’s Rs 5,426 crore.
Vi, though, is hoping to raise Rs 25,000 crore shortly via a mix of debt and equity to invest in its 4G network and also clear its balance Rs 50,400 crore of AGR arrears to the government.
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