Incumbent telcos outpace RJio in mobile broadband growth

Incumbent operators have started to regain their space in the mobile broadband segment, as the growth of the new player Reliance Jio has declined in the month of October. RJio has increased 24% subscribers in October 2017 compared to September 2017, while the overall mobile broadband subscribers added during the period saw an increase of 81%, signalling that incumbents are back into the game, Faisal Kawoosa, principal analyst telecommunications, CyberMedia, said in an analyst note. This means incumbents have been able to resurrect themselves in the mobile broadband space.

Though it is just a small period to analyse, it could be an early warning indicator for Jio that things are not working in the right direction for them, the note said. In the preceding two months of August and September, Jio subscriber addition was over 70% of the total monthly mobile broadband subscribers added, which has gone down to less than half 48% in October 2017. This also indicates that the sharp increase in the mobile broadband subscribers in October is not because of Jio after so many months, but this time the incumbents are credited with the addition.

The increase by incumbents indicates that their counter offers have started to show good results and they are able to add subscribers even in the 4G space, that is dominated by Jio otherwise. However, the trend needs to be observed for a longer horizon to understand if this is the way forward, he said. Jio created a disruption in the market with its entry in September last year.

Jio brought in free voice calls and dirt cheap data rates, which forced other players such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular to follow suit. With the bundled smartphone offers from incumbents, the results are expected to be further in their favour. From a device perspective, Xiaomi was the biggest driver of smartphones in July-September quarter and the increase in October new subscribers would be coming in largely from Xiaomi buyers.

This also indicates that typical Jio users are not buying online and such customer segments prefer to go with the incumbents like Airtel and Vodafone. He said Jio will have to strategise to reorient themselves as being the first preference rather as an affordable alternative besides relooking whether going for limited capability JioPhone was a good move, although its complete results won’t have reflected in October 2017 numbers. In September and October, 1.8 million and 2.5 million JioPhones were shipped respectively.

After the launch of first 4G feature phone by RJio in low price, other operators entered into partnerships with smartphone makers to bring such devices to tap the 500 million feature phone market.


  • This number could be an early warning indicator for Jio
  • Incumbents may be regaining their status in broadband space
  • The trend needs to be observed for a longer horizon to understand if this is the way forward

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