Reliance ended Q1 with 72.7m mobile customers. This compares with 61.3m three months earlier and 45.8m at the end of the fiscal year 07/08, gains of 10.3m and 26.9m respectively. The company claims to be “India's largest integrated communications service provider” but the claim has something of a hollow ring when its numbers are set alongside those of Bharti Airtel. Reliance may be integrated, for what that's worth, but it just isn't as big as Bharti, either by revenues or customers. Its customer base of 77m (including Broadband) is less than Bharti's 96.7m, while its revenues - INR61.2bn in this latest quarter – fall well short of Bharti's INR98.2m.
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It has the distinction of being the only company to offer both CDMA and GSM services in India, but we are not so sure that this is a positive, as the US standard seems to be in retreat in almost all markets globally.
Mobile Connections and Market Share
That said, with the launch of GSM services in several new circles it has taken market share in the quarter and its growth rate would make any developed world operator green with envy, as indeed would the potential in the country. The sheer scale of the market is hard to take in – Reliance covers some 500,000 towns and 90% of the country's 1.1bn population. Its move into international carrier services and domestic broadband gives it a chance of capturing much of the top end of the business market, while it also offers multimedia services under the name “Reliance Mobile World” which, from our perspective, is more than halfway towards being a great brand.
The KPIs and financials make interesting reading. Subscriber growth has not produced much in the way of revenue growth, as mobile turnover increased by just 8.2% year on year to INR45.0bn. Meanwhile EBITDA was actually down, year on year, at least at the mobile business, albeit only just, at INR16.63 against INR 16.76bn. (Given some of the promotions Reliance has been reported to have been offering to win new business, these figures are perhaps not surprising.) Reliance's MoU have dropped over the year, from 430 to 372 per cusotmer per month, and pricing pressure has reduced average rates by around 10% so that ARPUs are well down – this quarter's INR224 is nearly 30% below the INR317 of a year ago. However, churn has dropped from 1.4% to just 0.8%, which is a partial compensation.
Source: Cellular News.