Sunil Mittal, Chairman, Airtel. (Photo: IANS)

Bharti Airtel Adds Active Users First Time In Four Months

Billionaire Sunil Mittal won’t be too unhappy after his company lost subscribers for the second straight month in October. That’s because Bharti Airtel Ltd.’s active users, a metric that matters more, rose first time in four months.

The number of users actively using services jumped by close to 34 lakh for India’s second-largest telecom operator, according to the latest data released by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

Higher active users don’t necessarily mean more revenue-generating subscribers. Still, it indicates that the customer is frequently using the network and risk of losing the subscriber is low. The world’s second-largest telecom market is going through a churn after Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., owned by India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, unleashed a data tariff war to win customers from older rivals. There has been no let-up.

Vodafone Idea Ltd., India’s No. 1 operator, lost active subscribers for the sixth month in a row. Its active user base fell by 2 crore during the period as regulatory norms require the combined entity formed after the merger of Vodafone India and Idea Cellular Ltd. to bring down the number of customers below 50 percent in every circle.

Reliance Jio continued to win the largest share of new subscribers, albeit at a slower pace. The youngest telecom operator added close to 84.6 lakh active users. It now controls more than a fifth of India’s telecom market by subscribers. The growth is driven by the success of its 4G-enabled feature phone—JioPhone.

Telecom operators, however, are yet to see the full impact of a minimum recharge pack introduced by Airtel and Vodafone Idea and the new know your customer process mandated by the Department of Telecommunications, which is expected to slow down the subscriber addition in November.

Reliance Jio’s wired broadband service, launched in August, is yet to take off, TRAI data suggest. Because the number of industry-wide subscribers barely rose in October. The market is dominated by state-run BSNL Ltd. and MTNL Ltd.