Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Jio lose 7.5 million active subscribers as second SIMs start shutting off


  • Airtel, Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea and BSNL all lost active subscribers in April, according to data from TRAI.
  • Airtel and Vodafone Idea contributed 90% to this loss, with Jio barely in the red.
  • Overall, the three telcos added 2.5 million new subscribers.

The Indian telecom market looks like it’s getting smaller but then again, it only looks like it. In the month of April as many as 7.5 million subscribers had gone off the networks but since it’s very unlikely that millions have given up on this essential service — that’s the second SIM that subscribers are switching off.

Whether it’s voluntary or not is unknown, since top telcos like Airtel and Reliance Jio have been actively weeding out non-paying users by sending them frequent reminders to subscribe to an active plan. Failing to do so has resulted in subscribers seeing their numbers cut off.

However, the telecom tariffs have been rising in the last few quarters, and a second SIM has become a burden to most cost-conscious Indian users, with all the three telcos raising tariffs by nearly 20-25%.

Airtel and Jio however literally have nothing to lose since even in a truncated pie – both of them together added 2.5 million subscribers for the month, as per the data given out by regulator TRAI.

TRAI data has revealed that every telecom provider in the country – including the state-run BSNL – lost active subscribers in the month of April. This is not something that usually happens, since at least one or two telecom providers gain active subscribers even when the others lose numbers.

This is a sudden change since for the first three months of 2022, Indian telcos added 21 million active subscribers, while April registered a decline.

7.5 million Indians shut off second SIMs as Airtel, Jio clean house ahead of 5G auctions
Total active subscribersTRAI / Business Insider India / Flourish

A house cleaning is under way ahead of the 5G spectrum auctions

Weeding out non-paying subscribers and freeing up their networks and other resources. This gives the telcos a chance to reduce deadweight on their books and free up critical resources ahead of the
5G spectrum auctions.

7.5 million Indians shut off second SIMs as Airtel, Jio clean house ahead of 5G auctions
Telecom market shareTRAI / Business Insider India / Flourish

Second SIMs was a trend that started picking up around 2010 after the number of telecom players swelled and the market was flooded with new offers and schemes. At one point, Indian telecom connections were almost as large as its population.
Later, subscribers went for second SIMs for good data packages and coverage – but all this weighed on telecom companies as the average spends or ARPU decreased.

7.5 million Indians shut off second SIMs as Airtel, Jio clean house ahead of 5G auctions
Net subscriber additions in April 2022TRAI / Business Insider India / Flourish

Vodafone Idea is still unable to stem the tide with a loss of 1.5 million subscribers. It has now lost nearly 23 million subscribers in the past 12 months.

On an average, 9 out of 10 subscribers of all telecom operators are active subscribers. In absolute numbers, over a billion telecom subscribers have an active subscription plan.


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