Vodafone has for the first time passed Bharti Airtel as the leading mobile phone operator in rural parts of India, according to the latest monthly numbers released by the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).

According to Economic Times, Vodafone has recently put a greater focus on winning sales in the countryside, and now has the largest rural customer base of 82.24 million, just ahead of rival Bharti Airtel which has a total of 82.16 million subscribers outside the cities.

Overal Bharti Airtel is still the country’s leading operator with 188.2 million subscribers, ahead of Vodafone with 152.3 million subscribers, according to the COAI figures for March, 2013. Third-placed IDEA has 121.6 million subscribers.

However, it was Vodafone which had the most net subscriber additions (2.47 million) during the month, followed by IDEA’s 2.35 million net additions and Bharti Airtel’s 1.57 million.

The next six operators, in terms of size, either made no new additions, or actually lost customers during March, most notably Aircel which dropped by 800,000 subscribers in the month.