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Airtel making progress in 4G, but Jio still preferred primary Sim, says UBS study

Bharti Airtel is making progress in 4G, but Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Jio is increasingly becoming voice Sim, as customers are using it as a primary voice Sim, according to an UBS report on Telecom sector.

The ‘Evidence Lab’ survey by UBS said that there is a decline in multi-Sim ownership, but battle lines are shifting towards smaller towns. For instance, fewer subscribers are changing their main Sim now as compared to 3-12 months ago, especially in metros, it said.

At an industry level, the survey results show material reduction in multi-Sim ownership from 1.33x to 1.22x between March-April 2018 and December-January 2019, and among smartphone users, this is down from 1.5x to 1.36x, the report said.

“The results also show a large proportion of Jio users are now using it as primary voice Sim, which we believe is essential for eventual stabilisation of competitive and pricing environment – we see it highly unlikely that operators can raise prices in an environment of high multi-Sim ownership,” it said.

Customer satisfaction levels are comparable across the three main operators in metros, which should again drive stability in competitive dynamics, the survey said.

In non-metros however, customer satisfaction levels with Bharti and Vodafone-Idea (VIL) still lag that of Jio and willingness of respondents to change their primary Sim is higher than in metros, leaving perhaps another opportunity for Jio to gain market share as Airtel and VIL catch up on their 4G network coverage with the planned re-farming of 900MHz band.

The study also said that Airtel has made solid progress in increasing its share of smartphone subscribers, while Jio is maintaining its dominant share. But VIL is losing share.

“Indeed, incidence of Airtel’s Sims being used as primary data Sim is now almost comparable to Jio, signalling that the company is starting to succeed in its strategy of becoming the primary 4G Sim slot among its 4G subscribers,” it said.

JioPhone’s momentum in urban areas is also growing, but it still has opportunity to gain share in non-metros, it said adding that satisfaction levels with JioPhone are higher than other feature phone users, and more than half of JioPhone users want to buy a smartphone in their next purchase opening up an up-selling opportunity.

The report also indicated that customers are increasing their engagement levels with telco-owned apps, particularly those related to TV, music and content, whereas other apps such as JioChat continue to have a limited audience. The survey was conducted from December 15 to January 21 by a face-to-face interview of 2,120 mobile service users in 13 cities.

Source: The Hindu