Press "Enter" to skip to content

Jio prospers, Airtel suffers 

Last updated on August 3, 2020

Since its launch in 2016, Jio has been expanding its reach — and there’s no end to it

It was 2016 when Reliance Industries launched Jio and created panic amongst the leaders of wireless service providers, resulting in a price war as it offered free calling and considerably low data costs. This pulled in thousands, and the massive switchover began.

Now, fast forward to 2020 and Delhi’s current scenario is revealing just how well Jio has done. It has become the top subscribed wireless operator here with 1.8 crore subscribers in April (1,83,02,250). And it’s not taking things slow. It has plans to expand further in Delhi with  indigenously developed 5G, which they hope to launch first for testing here and in Mumbai.

And taking advantage of the pandemic forcing people to remain indoors, they have launched plans to push through its agenda for more market dominance, like launching ‘work from home’ plans. In March they upgraded their 4G plans offering vouchers for as low as Rs 11, which came with 800 MB of high-speed data.  

In fact, when you see the number of stores they have built in Delhi NCR, you see the aggressive push. Reliance Jio has a solid retail network with 110 Jio stores and Reliance digital stores put together, and also 25,000 retailers in Delhi-NCR.

One of the huge reasons, if not the biggest, as to why Jio has been able to grow to the top rank is that it’s only dealing with 4G network and young people are drawn to it by its cheap costs.

Preeti, a young professional in Delhi has like many others a dual sim phone. One which has Airtel, and since its launch, a Jio connection. “It was being handed out for free and people were talking about how good it is, so I took it. But while they started off with free deals, they are slowly increasing their rates.” She says she has stuck with Jio, despite the increasing rates because she gets good internet speed.  

Akshay Bhatia too points to the time when Jio launched and offered free data as the only factor why he was drawn to get a second phone connection. “Before Jio I was using Airtel, while I have kept that number active, I mainly use Jio.”

Now years of use later, he says it’s not cheap anymore, paying about Rs 350 a month and is miffed with Jio not offering rollover data (the unused data plan from one month rolls into the next). “I think that is the biggest flaw. Also, connectivity is not the best, not where I live in Faridabad, nor when I go to Delhi.”  

While there may be flaws, people are still drawn to Jio. According to the report from 2019, in the year 2018, two years after Jio started offering free calls and internet at phenomenally low prices, users in Delhi crossed over 1.2 crore (1,21,96,458) in June 2018, this number rose the next month in September to over 1.3 crore (1,33,25,084).

Then the next year, in the months of June and September, the number of users had risen to over 1.6 crore (1,62,26,566) and then to 1.7 crore (1,72,62,657), respectively.

With over 1.8 crore subscribers this April, Jio has pushed Vodafone Idea out of the coveted top subscribed wireless service provider.

When you look at the numbers though, things were pretty good for Vodafone Idea up until last year September when their Wireless Subscriber Base was at 1.9 crore (1,90,08,494). By December though the downward spiral began with total subscribers at 1.7 crore (1,77,01,405). And by April its numbers had gone down to 1.6 crore (1,69,82,626).

Shivanjali Singh, Head of Corporate Communications at Vodafone Idea refrained from  commenting on the numbers, as the “management perspective” was due in the quarterly results. She only pointed out that Vodafone Idea is rated as the fastest 4G network in Delhi by Ookla.

Profits of Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel have been hit and some rivals have gone out of business since Reliance Industries’ Jio came into the picture. According to a report by BBC, as soon as Mukesh Ambani, Managing Director of Reliance, unveiled his plans to launch Jio, the share price of India’s biggest telecom company, Bharti Airtel, fell 8.5% – losing $1.3bn.

And Airtel continues to suffer. The company which launched its telecom service in Delhi is now third among the top three players in the Capital city with 1.5 crore (1,53,92,076) wireless subscribers in April, even lower than their March report which was 1,56,22,321. These numbers are from TRAI’s report on telecom subscription released on July 24.

For the first quarter of this year, Airtel reported its results on July 29 which takes into account the period until June 30. It showed a massive loss after tax at Rs 15,191.2 crore, whereas in the same quarter last year the loss was at Rs 2,392.2 crore. 

On the operational front, Airtel’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) increased 25% to Rs 10,639.2 crore during the June quarter of this fiscal, as compared to Rs 8,492.6 crore in the same quarter last fiscal.

But clearly whatever Jio is doing is still working, since it shook the telecom ground in 2016 with its launch. 

(Cover: Reliance Jio is now the top subscribed wireless network in Delhi, toppling Vodafone Idea, while Airtel comes in third place   PHOTO: Getty images)