Indian market contracts but newcomer Reliance Jio Infocomm is still reporting impressive subscriber growth; market share approaches 15%

Reliance Jio Infocomm added 8.3 million new mobile customers in January, far outstripping the growth rates recorded by its larger rivals, according to new statistics from the Indian telecoms regulator.

The telco, which turned the Indian mobile space on its head when it launched services in 2016, added twice as many new customers as the rest of the market put together. Market leader Bharti Airtel boosted its base by 1.5 million in January, while number two and three players Vodafone and Idea Cellular added 1.3 million and 1.1 million new customers respectively.

The only other provider to record a positive growth figure was state-owned BSNL, which added just over 396,000 customers.

Many of the gains came at the expense of Reliance Communications (RCom), which saw its customer base shrink by 21.1 million in the first month of the year. Its performance hardly came as a surprise, given that the operator late last year announced it would close down its consumer mobile operations following the collapse of its plan to merge with rival Aircel.

Aircel also struggled in January, shedding 3.5 million customers.

RCom’s debt restructuring plan will see it sell off spectrum, fibre and other assets to Reliance Jio, and on Wednesday its bondholders approved the sale, following a favourable shareholder vote last month.

On completion of the deal, a new RCom will emerge as an entity focused on B2B telecoms and data centre services, and a submarine network operator.

At the end of January RCom had 1.8 million remaining mobile customers, pushing its market share down to just 1.05%. By contrast, Jio’s share of the market is growing steadily, hitting 14.62% at the same date, up from 13.71% at the end of last year and 10.39% six months earlier.

Despite Jio’s efforts, the Indian mobile market contracted in January, losing 15.5 million connections to leave it with 1.15 billion in total.