Reliance Jio arrests trend of declining net additions; user activity increases

Reliance Jio, India’s newest operator, added 5.94 mln subscribers in September, breaking a declining trend in net additions and taking the total subscriber number to 138.62 mln (13.86 cr).

Even as the company increased its subscriber numbers, it was also able to reduce the proportion of inactive or switched-off users on the network.


However, September was a month that most of the telecom operators in India would rather forget.

Besides Jio, the only other major operators to continue to post increases in subscriber numbers in September were Bharti Airtel — which added 1 mln users, and BSNL — which added 0.5 mln users.

Idea Cellular lost 0.9 mln users in September, while Vodafone lost 0.7 mln users. Both these numbers are already known as these companies make their numbers available ahead of TRAI.

Meanwhile, former CDMA operators Reliance Communications and Tata Teleservices continued to bleed subscribers as the market shifts to 4G.

RCom lost 5.1 mln users to reach 72 mln users, while Tata Teleservices saw its user base decline by 2.1 mln to 44.92 mln at the end of September 2017.

Another loser was Aircel Cellular, which saw a decline of .39 mln users, taking its total to 88.75 mln.

According to VLR data — which shows the maximum number of users who were ‘switched on’ at any particular time during the month — nearly 63% of Aircel’s subscribers were still active.

Surprisingly, the number does not show a heavy decline from January this year, when Aircel had a VLR percentage of 65.5%, indicating that users continue to be switched on and active.

However, the VLR proportion for Reliance Communciations, Tata Teleservices and BSNL showed a sharp decline from the beginning of the year.

RCom used to have a ‘switched on’ percentage of 85.9% in January, but it fell by 9 percentage points over seven months to 76.9% by the end of September.

Tata Teleservices too saw a decline in VLR from 81.5% in January to 73.7%, while BSNL’s VLR user percentage fell from 66.4% to 61.1%.

The numbers for Reliance Jio show that the company managed to add more subscribers in September compared to August, and also managed to increase the percentage of ‘switched on’ or ‘VLR’ subscribers during the month.


Jio had added only 4.1 mln new subscribers in August, while it had added 5.2 mln in July and 6 mln in June.

This had raised concerns that the company’s growth was plateauing rapidly and it would soon ‘run out of’ 4G subscribers to sign on.

However, in September, the company broke the declining trend and reported new subscribers of almost 6 mln.

The net addition number for October too is expected to remain strong as the company started delivering its low-cost Jiophone ‘smart’ featurephone during the month.

At total of 6 mln Jiophones are reported to have been delivered between mid-October to mid-November.


The numbers also show improved success for the company in maintaining engagement levels with its customers.

As a result, the percentage of switched on users increased by more than 2 percentage points in September.

This proportion had fallen from about 80% in December 2016 to 71% in April this year, when it started charging for its services.

The transition to paid services had led to many users switching off their connections, reducing VLR levels.

Since the low of April, the company has steadily managed to improve the VLR proportion — indicating that it is managing to persuade more and more of its subscribers to recharge and use their connections.

The proportion of VLR subscribers, which had risen to 75.44% in August, further jumped to 77.49% in September.