Compared to the end of October 2006, GSM's share of the market has increased from 73.8% to 75.0%, and with 5.9m new GSM customers in October it also took approximately 75% of the month's net additions.
In terms of individual operators' performances, Bharti is still the clear market leader, passing the 50m mark in October to reach 50.9m customers at the end of the month. With 13m more customers than its nearest rival, its lead appears to be unassailable - for the foreseeable future at least. The battle for second place is much more hotly contested, with Reliance only 1 million customers ahead of Vodafone on 37.9m. This compares to a gap of just under 6m customers at the end of October 2006. Much of this reduction was due to Reliance's loss of over 4m customers in March as a result of the implementation of a customer re-verification programme in India, but even since then Vodafone has managed to narrow the deficit. Having said that, October was the first month since February in which Reliance actually managed to increase its lead. For the prior six months, Vodafone had been gaining on its rival by an average of 0.17m per month, reducing the difference to just 0.55m in September. However, Reliance upped its game in October, posting its highest total for net additions in over a year, and it appears to have fended off the possibility of a drop in the ranking for a few months at least.
In terms of market share, Reliance added 0.2pp in the month to reach 17.8% at the end of October, while Vodafone lost 0.1pp and finished on 17.3%; this compares to 21.0% for Reliance and 16.4% for Vodafone at the same point in 2006. Bharti's market share has risen by 1.8pp year on year, adding 0.1pp in each of the past four months.
Meanwhile, fourth placed operator BSNL has been steadily losing market share. It finished October down 2.6pp yearly on 14.7%, with October the eighth successive month in which it lost share. Its market ranking is secure for the time being, however, with a gap of over 11m customers separating it from Tata in fifth place.
The chart shows the monthly customer growth rates of the top four operators over the past six months. Vodafone was the fastest growing operator amongst the top four from May to September inclusive, but its October figure for net additions (1.23m) was its lowest since March, and it slipped to third place as a result with a rate of 3.4%. Bharti has remained fairly consistent with only a slight decline in growth over the past four months, recording 4.2% in October compared to 4.8% in May. Given the size of its customer base this is an impressive result, and with net additions of over 2m in each of the past four months, Bharti will be proud of its performance despite the slight fall in the growth rate.
India: Monthly Customer Growth Rates, Top Four Operators
Reliance's October figure of 1.69m net additions was, as we have previously noted, its best result for over a year, and this propelled the second-placed operator from third to first in the growth rankings. BSNL remained in fourth place with an October growth rate of 2.4% but it has shown some improvement over the past six months. On a yearly basis, it is actually ahead of Reliance, having expanded its customer base by 39.4%, a rate that is 0.2pp above that of Reliance.
Bharti is the fastest growing of the top four on an annual basis with a 77.9% increase in its customer base, although Vodafone is not far behind on 73.4%. Both of these figures are considerably above the total market growth rate of 64.4%, with the total yearly growth of the top four combined a little below this at 57.7%.