Reliance Jio reverses two-decade-long fall in wired phone users

India broadband additions – Jan-Jun 2020

Reliance Jio’s wired connectivity service, called Jio Fiber, has finally achieved what many thought was impossible — break the two-decade long declining trend in the number of wired phone connections in India.

The number of wire-line connections in India started declining around two decades ago as mobile call tariffs fell sharply, spurring BSNL customers to surrender their relatively expensive landline phones.

The trend has continued uninterrupted ever even as BSNL and MTNL tried to lure users to stay on as broadband customers.

As a result, the number of wired connections in India fell from 38.05 million (3.81 cr) in November 2008 to 19.77 million as of May 2020.


However, thanks to the acceleration of roll-out of Reliance Jio’s fiber network, the month of June 2020 has become the first to see a reversal of this trend. June 2020 saw India report a net addition of 43,931 wired connections, compared to the decline of 1.53 lakh seen in the previous month of May.

Jio contributed the most to this trend-reversal by adding a whopping 2.23 lakh wired connections in June, followed by Airtel with 25,256 additions.

It should be noted that these numbers include only wired customers of operators who have taken a universal (telecom) license, and does not include wired customers of companies like ACT and Spectra, who operate under internet service provider licenses.

On the losing side, BSNL continued to see massive losses of wired connections.

The company lost another 1.8 lakh customers during the month. Others who saw losses of wired customers are Tata Teleservices (13,336 customers) and Anil Ambani Group’s Reliance Communications (11,039 customers).

According to industry sources, Jio’s sharp addition in June was on account of phone connections provided to enterprise customers as well as companies belonging to the Reliance Industries group.


Separately, Jio continued to push down hard on accelerating the roll-out of its broadband service, setting yet another record by adding 90,000 net new broadband users in June.

This is the highest single-month addition of wired broadband users in India by any company. The earlier record was also held by Jio Fiber, by adding around 70,000 new users in May 2020.

The acceleration in deployment is part of the trend shown by the company from February this year. Jio Fiber is expected to hit a run-rate of adding 2 lakh new fiber users per month in another 10-12 months.

It should be noted that Jio gives phone-call facilities to its Jio Fiber users. Therefore, the 90,000 new broadband customers added in June are also likely to have been included in the 2.23 lakh new landline customers reported by the company.

While Jio added 90,000 new broadband users in June, BSNL continued to lose broadband users along with its landline users.

Out of the 1.8 lakh landline users that BSNL lost during the month, 30,000 were also broadband customers.

However, other players were adding broadband users.

Bharti Airtel, which added only around 25,000 new wireline users in June, nevertheless added a whopping 60,000 new broadband users. The number is likely to have benefited from re-activation of broadband connections that were temporarily disconnected during the acute phase of India’s COVID-19 lockdown as people moved back to their home towns.

Bharti Airtel had lost 30,000 broadband customers each in April and May, and some of these user are likely to have shifted back to combo packs in June.

Continuing its strong performance this year, ACT broadband added another 40,000 new users, while Hathway Cable added around 20,000.