Buoyed by ‘4Gonly’ services and dirt-cheap data tariffs, Reliance Jio has cornered the lion’s share when it comes to taking Indians online, sailing ahead of old-timers such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular and BSNL.
Jio’s share in the country’s total internet base of 494 million stood at 37.7% at the end of March 2018 on a total subscriber base of 186.5 million, according to numbers accessed from telecom regulator Trai.
Jio had started operations in September 2016.
Airtel, which started services in the late nineties, ended with a share of 23.5% at end of March 2018, with an internet subscriber base of 116 million. The company is saddled with a large base of 2G subscribers, many of whom use non-internet feature phones, which are primarily used for voice.
Vodafone and Idea Cellular, which are set to close their ambitious merger, are behind Jio even after combining their internet market shares. Vodafone has a share of 15.4% (at 76 million users), while Idea has 9.5% (47 million).
State-owned BSNL, which has operations everywhere in the country except in Delhi and Mumbai (where MTNL operates), had a share of 6.4% and is the fifth-largest internet provider with 31.4 million users.
Apart from cheaper tariffs and a network that offers 4G internet as a standard, Jio also gained from bundling of low-cost handsets (and later even premium ones) from the day it began services. A large number of dual-SIM handsets and tendency of Indians to go online largely through mobile phones also benefited the new-entrant.
A large number of users had used Jio as a second SIM option to take benefit of the company’s cheap internet plans.