Reliance Jio, India’s largest telecom operator, has seen its data traffic double to 2.6 billion GBs per month this September from 1.3 billion GBs a year ago, according to the company’s quarterly update.
Surprisingly, the 100% growth in data consumption has outpaced the 83% jump in subscribers. Analysts and observers had expected the company’s data consumption to trail, or largely keep track of, the company’s overall subscriber growth.
It was expected that much of the company’s growth in 2018 is coming from its smart featurephone called Jiophone.
Even though the company has been maintaining that the device’s tiny display is no impediment to media consumption, the rising share of Jiophones was widely expected to drag average data consumption.
Instead, from less 10 GB per month per connection in September last year, data consumption has increased to 11 GB per month per connection.
The consumption of voice, which is unbilled on the network, continued to increase at a brisk pace. The 22% jump seen in average voice usage per month was higher than that seen in data.
On average, a Jio customer consumed 761 minutes of voice per month during the latest three months, up from 626 minutes last year.
In the last two years, the total voice traffic carried by the operator has jumped 7.8 times. It said it now accounts for 40% of the world’s total VoLTE users.
Part of the reason could be the increasing reliability of the network and the increasing incoming calls.
According to company’s quarterly numbers, call drop rate on its network fell to about 0.13% in the September quarter from about 0.52% for the same period last year.
Another area where the company has outperformed expectations is in subscriber additions.
When the company last year announced a target of having 300 mln users, most industry veterans took it to be an aspirational number, and not something to be taken literally.
It was expected that the lack of 4G handsets in the country would soon dampen its growth rate, curtailing it to the 200 mln mark.
However, instead of decelerating, the company’s pace of subscriber additions has in fact been accelerating.
It added 37 mln subscribers in the September quarter, averaging 12.3 mln new subscribers per month.
In the preceding three months, it added 29 mln, and 27 mln in the three months before that (see chart).
With the strong growth, it has already reached 252 mln subscribers, or about a fourth of the total connections in the country and over half of the wireless broadband connections.
The company’s next target is the wired communications sector, including cable TV, home broadband and wired telephony.
It announced an ambitious plan to take a controlling stake in two of India’s largest cable feed providers — Den and Hathway, hoping to convince the companies’ cable operator partners to sign up for upgrading their networks to fiber optic cable to deliver higher-value services like broadband.