Jio and Airtel’s active or `VLR’ mobile user base in June were almost identical at 310 million and 311 million respectively. But recent investor disclosures by both telcos show Jio’s base of paying mobile users at 397 million was 28% higher than its June base of active users, while in Airtel’s case, it was 10% lower at 280 million.
The VLR or `visitor location register’ is a key metric reflecting the actual number of users actively using a mobile network.
“Who are these 87 million Jio subscribers who are recharging their SIMs regularly, but are not connected to Jio’s network,” said Kotak Institutional Equities in a note, analysing June subscriber data put out by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and recent investor disclosures by the telco.
The brokerage said Trai data shows “Jio has a very high number of only sometimes-on SIM (users) on its network, which is particularly intriguing as Jio SIMs work only in the primary slot, even in dual-SIM mobile devices.
Kotak added that while users of “dongle SIMs do have this sometimes-on characteristic,” that is not the case with folks using SIMs in their handset as most mobile connections are generally always on.
Analysts are particularly intrigued by “the vast differential” between the revenue-earning subscriber base versus the active user base of India’s top two telcos.
“How does Bharti end up with a VLR (or active user) base that is 10% higher than its paying consumer base, while Jio has a VLR base that is 28% lower than its paying consumer base,” wonders Kotak in a note seen by ET.
The brokerage added that it’s “unable to comprehend why Jio’s subscriber base would exhibit (so) much different behavior than Bharti’s subscriber base”.
Trai’s VLR data for June indicated that 98.14% of Airtel’s users were active, a full was 20 percentage points higher than Jio’s active user base at 78.15%.
Airtel had added 3.7 million active mobile users in June, wresting the top spot on this score from Jio, which lost 2.1 million active subscribers.