Bharti Airtel continued to add more wireless subscribers than rival Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJio) for the sixth month in a row, as the former brought on board 58.92 lakh wireless subscribers in January, compared to the 19.56 lakh wireless subscribers added by Reliance Jio, latest data released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) showed.
In August, September, October, November, and December 2020, Airtel added 28.99 lakh, 37.79 lakh, 36.74 lakh, 43.70 lakh and 40.51 lakh wireless subscribers, while RJio added 18.64 lakh, 14.61 lakh, 22.28 lakh, 19.36 lakh, and 4.78 lakh subscribers, respectively.
RJio, however, continued to be India’s largest operator by subscriber number. As of January, the telco had 41.07 crore users as against Airtel’s 34.46 crore. During January, RJio also commanded close to 55 per cent market share if the total number of wired and wireless subscribers are added, compared to a 24.3 per cent market share that Airtel had.
Vi (Vodafone Idea) added net subscribers for the first time in 14 months in January, with 17.10 lakh users joining its network. The debt-laden telco, which has been haemorrhaging subscribers, had last seen net addition of subscribers way back in October 2019 when 1.89 lakh users had joined its network, Trai data showed.
Barring October 2019 and January 2021, however, Vi, has lost subscribers every month starting October 2018. Though Vodafone and Idea had finalised their merger in August 2018, they started reporting consolidated subscriber numbers only two months later.
In Punjab, where Reliance Jio’s parent company Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) is facing a fallout of its alleged gain from the passage of the three farm laws by the central government, the telco stemmed its subscriber base slide in January 2021 but still lost 74,332 users. In December 2020, the telco had lost 15.58 lakh subscribers.
RIL has repeatedly distanced itself from allegations of any gains from the farm laws. In a statement issued in January, RIL had said that it would always support the Indian farmers’ demand for a “fair and profitable price on a predictable basis” for their produce. The company had then also said that it had no plans to enter corporate on contract farming, now or in the future.
“Neither Reliance nor any of our subsidiaries has purchased any agricultural land, directly or indirectly, in Punjab/Haryana or anywhere else in India, for the purpose of ‘corporate’ or ‘contract’ farming. We have absolutely no plans to do so,” RIL had then said in a statement.
Most of the farmers, who have been protesting against the three new farm laws brought about by the central government since September, have claimed that the new rules would give undue advantage to big contract farming companies.
The farmers have also claimed that big companies such as RIL and the Adani Group had been purchasing vast tracts of farmland in Punjab and Haryana, where they planned to undertake contract farming and set up private mandis, which would undermine the government-run mandis.
RJio’s subscribers as of end-December, the lowest in the preceding 18 monthsm was only the second time that it lost subscribers on a net basis in Punjab since its commercial launch, with the only other month being December 2019. In December 2019, all major telecom companies, except state-owned BSNL, had reported a fall in subscribers in the Punjab circle.