India had 946.66 million mobile subscribers at the end of September 2017 as per recent data from the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI). Airtel continues to top the market with a near 30 percent share, and a subscriber base that exceeds 282 million. Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, which have now merged, followed Airtel with 207.44 million and 190.15 million subscribers respectively. Newbie Reliance Jio had 128.58 million subscribers with a 13.5 percent share. Also Read - Reliance JioFiber plans with free Voot Select subscription: Check plans, price, and other benefitsAlso Read - Airtel introduces new postpaid plans with more data, refreshes Family postpaid plans too
India’s largest state Uttar Pradesh accounted for the highest number of subscribers at 83.46 million subscribers, while Maharashtra grabbed the second spot with 79.2 million subscribers. Bihar was a near third with total 76.15 million subscribers, states the report. Interestingly, new subscriber additions were led by smaller states like Kerala and Haryana, and partly by Gujarat. The two big metros, Mumbai and Delhi, added 0.27 million and 1.37 million new subscribers respectively. ALSO READ: Reliance Jio sees decline in active subscribers as freebies dry up; 30 million inactive connections now Also Read - JioFiber broadband plans with free Netflix subscription: Check plans, price, data benefits, more
“The increase of subscribers in Kerala, Haryana and Gujarat shows that there is still room for basic services to grow and expand to the corners of the country. The steady investment in infrastructure in these regions is showing positive result. The industry is reeling under a cumulative debt of over Rs 4.6 lakh crores. The industry further needs an additional investment of over Rs 2.5 lakh crore for infrastructure rollout and expansion, especially in the far flung areas of the country,” Rajan Mathews, Director General, COAI stated in the report. ALSO READ: Telecom subscriber base increased to 1.18 billion in February 2017: TRAI
The telecom industry has traditionally been debt-ridden. However, the last one year has been particularly stressful for incumbent telcos as Jio has led to a mobile tariff drop. ARPUs have declined subsequently and telcos have spent loads in marketing and promoting new offers and plans in a bid to match up to Jio, which was the quickest telecom operator in the world to notch up 100 million subscribers earlier this year. Now, almost all leading telcos are tying up with local handset manufacturers to disrupt the feature phone market with bundled offers. And Jio’s freebies dry up, its active subscriber base declines too. It would be interesting to see how the numbers pan out in 2018.