Reliance Jio, India’s 4G newcomer, may have attracted the majority of attention in the Indian mobile market since its official launch in September.
However, the country’s top five operators have quietly picked up 4G subscribers and are on track to have 18 million by the end of the year – up from less than eight million in Q2, according to GSMA Intelligence.
Last week Jio claimed to have signed up 52 million 4G subscribers in less than three months, and extended a free voice, data and video offer from the end of the year to the end of March 2017.
While Jio is by far the 4G leader, the country’s largest mobile operator Bharti Airtel added nearly three million 4G users in the second half of the year, taking its total to 7.4 million. Number three Idea Cellular is forecast to have 4.2 million 4G subscribers by the year-end, Reliance Communications 3.6 million, Aircel 1.7 and Vodafone India 1 million.
Together the top five and Jio are expected to have at least 70 million 4G connections by the end of the year. (GSMA Intelligence doesn’t have a Q4 forecast for Jio.)
India is already the third largest 4G market in Asia, behind China (704 million) and Japan (128 million). Globally only the US, with 215 million 4G subs, has more. There is little doubt India will surpass Japan in 2017 to become the third largest 4G market worldwide.
With 52 million mobile users, Jio ranks eighth in India just behind Tata Docomo, with 57 million subs, and Telenor India, which had 53 million connections at the end of Q3, according GSMA Intelligence. Telenor only had about 60,000 4G subs in Q3, while Tata Docomo doesn’t offer 4G service.