This, analysts said, was either since these migrants had no immediate need to recharge, having left the cities, or simply couldn’t afford to renew their plans as many were out of work after lockdowns.
The 87 million gap between Jio’s gross and active (or `VLR’) mobile users in June compares with six million and 32 million gaps in Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea’s cases, respectively, said Kotak Securities, analyzing the June subscriber data put out by the telecom regulator.
The VLR or `visitor location register’ is a key metric reflecting the actual number of users actively using a mobile network. Latest Trai VLR data for June showed that 98.14% of the users were active for Airtel, 89.49% for Vi and only 78.15% for Jio.
According to Kotak, Trai data showed Jio’s base of inactive users in absolute terms has risen by 34 million since June 2019, while in Vi’s case it has shrunk by 29 million (to 32 million) and in Airtel’s case increased by a million (to 6 million).
Nitin Soni, senior director at ratings agency Fitch, said: “Jio’s active user base has fallen as many migrants across India were out of work during lockdowns, and perhaps gave up their Jio connections.”
He, though, estimates the 4G operator’s active user base will expand in the next three to four quarters once these migrants leave their villages and return to work in the cities. The situation would improve rapidly if the Covid caseload shrinks and a vaccine arrives by March 2021.
Analysts say another key reason Jio’s inactive user base is much higher than Airtel’s and Vi’s is that the two older incumbent carriers have a more conservative approach on reporting revenue-generating active users.
Goldman Sachs said the latest subscriber data suggest Airtel continues to successfully migrate its 2G user base to 4G, with no discernible subscriber loss to Jio. The 2G segment makes up around 50 % of its user base and garners 30% of its wireless revenues.