Airtel vs Jio vs Vodafone Idea

4 min read
The brawl between the Indian Telcos is growing intense day by day. Airtel recently eclipsed Reliance Jio in new mobile subscribers addition in September after a tedious gap of 4 years, as per the latest TRAI data as on Sept 30, 2020. Is the Indian telecom sector transforming into a strong duopoly? Check out this blog to find out.

Airtel Beats Jio in new subscriber addition |Comparison of Indian Telecom companies


Airtel is picking up pace lately when it comes to adding new mobile subscribers, beating Reliance Jio in September. On the other hand, Vodafone Idea is still on its losing streak and lost lost 46.5 Lakh subscribers in September. Users are vigorously switching from Vodafone Idea to Airtel & Jio. Let us compare Airtel vs Jio vs Vodafone Idea on various parameters.

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Airtel vs Jio vs Vodafone Idea

New subscriber addition

Airtel vs Jio vs Vodafone Idea subscriber addition
  • Airtel pipped Jio in new mobile subscribers addition in Sept-month after a gap of 4 years, as per the latest TRAI data as on Sept 30, 2020.
  • In July and August 2020 they managed to add 32.6 Lakh and 29 Lakh new subscribers respectively, while also overtaking Jio in August 2020.
  • Concurrently, Vodafone Idea’s subscribers fell below 30 Cr for the first time since the merger of Vodafone and Idea. They ended up losing 46.5 Lakh subscribers in September.
Monthly trend of new subscriber addition
Subscriber addition Monthly trend – Airtel vs Jio vs Vodafone Idea
  • Bharti Airtel has been consistently making headway in New Subscribers Addition since the last 3 months. In July and August 2020 they managed to add 32.6 Lakh and 29 Lakh new subscribers respectively, while also overtaking Jio in August 2020.
  • While on the other hand, Vodafone Idea is facing difficulty in retaining customers and has persistently lost big chunks of subscribers from March 2020 till September 2020.

Market Share of overall mobile subscriber base

  • Reliance Jio currently has highest mobile subscribers at 40.4 1 crore, followed by Airtel, Vodafone Idea,BSNL,MTNL and others respectively.
Total Mobile Subscribers of Indian Telecom companies
  • In terms of market share as well, Jio tops the list with ~35% market share , followed by Airtel , Vodafone Idea, BSNL, MTNL and others.
  • All in all, private companies collectively account for 89.35% of the market share and public companies (BSNL, MTNL) retain only a mere 10.65%.
Market share of Indian Telecom companies

% Visitor Locator Register (VLR) Subscribers

  • Visitor Location Register (VLR) is a key metric reflecting the actual number of subscribers actively using a mobile network (i.e. Active Wireless Subscribers).
  • The Active Wireless Subscribers (VLR) as a % of Total Wireless Subscribers for the industry (benchmark) is at 83.45%. Airtel and Vodafone Idea stand at 96.9% and 88.4% respectively, comfortably transcending the benchmark. While for Reliance Jio it’s only 78.76%.
%Visitor Locator Register (VLR) Subscribers of Indian Telecom companies

Postpaid Segment Revenue Trend

  • India’s Postpaid Market Size has halved over last 4 years (FY16-FY20). The decline is a consequence of a 42% drop in postpaid ARPU to Rs.357 because of sharp fall in prepaid pricing.
  • Reliance Jio entered the market in September 2016 and become the leading carrier in the world’s second-biggest wireless market. Just three years after its debut , it disrupted the Indian Telecom industry by offering pricing so low and raising the level of internet penetration in rural India.
  • As a consequence there was a paradigm shift as preference for prepaid swiftly grew, hence postpaid revenues started to peter out. As on FY20, Postpaid segment forms 15% of the sector’s revenues and 5% of the sector’s active subscribers.
Postpaid segment in Indian Telecom sector
Operator-wise Market share in postpaid segment
  • Among operators, Vodafone Idea has the highest share of the postpaid market at 43% followed by Bharti Airtel at 28%.
  • For Airtel, postpaid forms 5% of its subscribers and 16% of its India mobile revenues in FY20. It would take 10% churn of its postpaid subscribers would lead to a 1% dip in its revenues.
Postpaid Segment Market Share (%)
Reliance Jio is putting its best foot forward to achieve market dominance in postpaid segment. Will it be successful?
  • Reliance Jio’s new postpaid plus plans, offer more content options than both Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea across price points. Reliance Jio’s Rs 399 plan offers nearly double the data compared to Vodafone Idea’s same price pack.
Comparison of postpaid plans – Jio vs Airtel vs Vodafone Idea
  • This shows that Reliance is trying hard to enter the postpaid segment by pricing its plans at much lower rates as compared to its peers.
  • However, there is limited risks from Reliance Jio’s new postpaid plans for Bharti Airtel. It is mainly because Bharti Airtel’s 50-60% subscribers are enterprise customers, while Jio has been targeting the retail customers base since last 4 years.
  • Unlike Retail customers, the key focus of Enterprise Customers is less on pricing and more on the sustained track record of service delivery.
  • Thus, despite Reliance Jio pricing its comparable offerings at Rs.399, at a 20% discount to Bharti Airtel (Rs.499), there is not much subscriber churn risk to Bharti Airtel, given its premium brand positioning in the segment.
  • On the other hand, Vodafone Idea may witness higher subscriber outgo as the ongoing network integration exercise has caused bad experience in some key service areas


The telecom sector is on the up and up. Bharti Airtel has bucked the trend and made a solid comeback in the past last 2 quarters, furnishing a good fight to its peers. On the other hand, Reliance Jio is also on the move, making every effort to resuscitate and capture a bigger piece of the postpaid market.

Only time will tell how this plot plays out.

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