A pedestrian walks past an Idea Cellular Ltd., left, and a Bharti Airtel Ltd. stores in Mumbai. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Idea Cellular Loses Most Users In Nine Months In May

Billionaire Kumar Mangalam Birla-promoted Idea Cellular Ltd., yet to get the final approval for its merger with Vodafone India Ltd., lost about 25 lakh customers in May—the most among Indian wireless carriers.

The industry, in comparison, added more than 59 lakh subscribers, according to the latest data provided by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. And that was led by Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd.

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s upstart added 93.5 lakh subscribers, of which nearly 48 percent were from rural areas. And Reliance Jio’s 45 lakh new rural users were the highest among peers. The share of rural subscribers has been rising for India’s newest telecom operator, largely driven by lower tariffs and low-cost 4G-enabled JioPhone.

India’s largest telecom operator Bharti Airtel Ltd.’s subscriber base rose by 3.6 crore, but that was because it completed the merger with the Indian unit of Norway’s Telenor Communications Pvt. Ltd. Vodafone India Ltd. and state-owned BSNL also added customers, while Tata Teleservices Ltd. and MTNL lost customers. Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Communications Ltd. didn’t report the data as it has stopped offering services.

With the addition of Telenor’s India users, Bharti Airtel’s customer market share rose to 30.5 percent. Vodafone India and Idea Cellular’s share declined to 19.67 percent and 18.94 percent, respectively.

Reliance Jio’s customer market share increased by less than a percentage point to 18.2 percent. But its active user base remained below the industry average for the nineteenth straight month. It dropped by 224 basis points over the previous month to 83.6 percent in May.

Also read: Reliance Jio Tops 4G Download Speed In May; Idea’s Upload Rate Is The Highest