Vodafone Idea’s subscribers have declined for the twenty-fifth month in a row in April with even 4G users switching to rival operators’ brand new 5G network.

“VIL’s 4G subscriber losses in April 2023 were the second-highest 4G subscriber losses in two years, and this is the second time that VIL has lost 4G subscribers in the last three months. This suggests that 5G rollouts by Bharti and Jio are putting pressure on VIL’s 4G subscriber base,” said a report from Jefferies.

VIL has been struggling to invest in rolling out new 5G networks without any fresh funding. Banks are yet to give fresh loans to the telecom operator given the large debt on its balance sheet.

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Expectations of fresh investments have also not been fructified despite the government picking up an equity stake in the company. Meanwhile, Airtel and Jio have been increasing their respective market shares with billions of dollars flowing into rolling out pan India 5G networks.

Total industry subscribers were 114.4 crore, a decline of 8 lakh month-on-month.

Reliance Jio added over 3 million subscribers month-on-month, followed by Bharti (1 lakh), while VIL and BSNL/MTNL saw declines of about 3 million and 1 million, respectively.

“Subscriber market share for VIL declined by 25 bps to 20 per cent, while it improved marginally for RJio to 38 per cent (gain of 29 bp m-o-m) and remained stable for Bharti Airtel (32 per cent). Net subscriber additions for RJio in April 2023 were broad-based across rural and urban as well as across circles, while they were largely concentrated in Circle A/C for Bharti Airtel,” said a report by Morgan Stanley

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Mobile number portability (MNP) requests were lower m-o-m, but still remained at elevated levels in April 2023.

“This suggests stiff competition in the sector and focus on market share gains. Higher levels of MNP could also be due to VIL users porting out to experience 5G on Bharti or Jio. This is likely to keep churn levels elevated and drive up S&M costs for telcos,” Jeffereis said.

Over the last four months, Jio’s active subscriber additions at 16.3 million have been 3x of Bharti’s 5.3 million subscriber additions. Additionally, Bharti continues to gain market share among 3G/4G subscribers.

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“Jio’s active subscriber leadership and Bharti’s 3G/4G market share gains bode well for tariff hikes. Furthermore, VIL’s 3G/4G subscriber losses indicate pressure on its 4G subscriber base and could result in accelerated market share shifts towards Jio/Bharti over the next few months,” Jefferies added.