Airtel is fast gaining ground in India when it comes to wooing new users while the industry disruptor Jio is losing customers owing to "poor network experience", a new report has revealed.
According to global mobile analytics company Opensignal, data shows that until August 2020, Airtel and Jio had been steadily gaining smartphone users, and in this period, both operators were neck and neck in the net users gained.
"From September onwards, when carriers once again decided to hike prices, Airtel continued to gain users until the end of the year. However, that trend on Jio's network more or less flattened and then gradually started to decline -- the negative trend was more pronounced from mid-November onwards," the report said late on Tuesday.
By the end of 2020, Airtel had gained the highest proportion of users.
In contrast, Vi (earlier called Vodafone) had been steadily losing customers since the beginning of the year and only started to see a deceleration of this trend from mid-November onwards.
Currently, India is the world's second-largest telecommunications market, with a subscriber base of 1.16 billion.
According to the latest TRAI data, the wireless subscriber base of Jio now stands at 404.1 million. It is 326.6 million for Airtel and 295.5 million for Vodafone Idea.
The market has registered strong growth in the last decade, but it also has high churn rates birthed by carriers adopting an aggressive pricing strategy, especially after Jio's disruptive entry in 2016 that ate away the profits and forced many operators out of the market, often as a result of acquisitions.
"That said, by the end of 2019, the three leading carriers -- Airtel, Vodafone and Jio -- decided to raise their tariff, signaling a truce to their price wars that changed the dynamics of the market significantly," the report mentioned.
The report found that smartphone Leavers, on average, had a worse mobile experience before they switched than the typical experience observed by the smartphone users on their original network provider.
Leavers across Airtel, Jio and Vi on average spent between 74 per cent and 155 per cent more time without a mobile signal compared to the average scores on their networks; they also spent less time connected to either a 3G or 4G mobile connection -- 3G/4G availability -- and they experienced lower 4G Availability.
The data indicates that users experiencing mobile network pain points are more likely to change their mobile service provider.
Jio's disruptive entrance into the Indian mobile market with its free data and unlimited voice calls plans initiated an undercutting strategy among the key market players.
But Opensignal's analysis of India's mobile experience shows that having a worse mobile network experience remains a key indicator of smartphone users switching their mobile network operator.
"This indicates that mobile network experience is critical to understand mobile subscriber churn in India. Operators that wish to reduce churn levels in India must segment their smartphone users' based on the quality of users' mobile network experience," the company emphasised.
In September last year, Opensignal reported that Airtel has come closer to challenging Reliance Jio which continues to reign supreme on 4G availability and 4G coverage experience in India.