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According to a new report by research firm CMR, India had 238 million 4G subscribers by the end of December 2017 and this was 35 percent of the total subscribers meaning 1 out of 3 4G subscribers in the country is from a rural territory.
CMR also estimates that the country will have 300 million 4G subscribers by the end of 2018, of which 58 million will be using a 4G Featurephone. Remaining 81 percent of the subscribers will be using 4G over a smartphone including the ones based on Android Oreo Go that are optimized for lower configuration Smartphones. By 2020, 35 percent of the 4G subscribers would be using a Featurephone taking the overall 4G subscriber count to 432 million in India.
CMR said, "Jio, although credited with bringing 4G into India and it has also made the incumbents like Airtel, Vodafone and Idea to ramp up their technology resulting in they also investing in 4G networks.
As a consequence, while Jio being the 4G leader operator with 160 million subscribers at the end of December 2017, has only managed to increase 122 percent (88 million) subscribers in the year 2017, as against 457 percent (64 million) by the incumbent mobile operators.
"Though laggards, incumbents have managed to increase their 4G subscriber base 3.8 times more than the disruptor operator Jio during 2017. This could be attributed to incumbents aligning their 4G offering to that of Jio in terms of price as well as content," said Faisal Kawoosa, Head - New Initiatives, CMR.
At the same time, incumbent operators have focused on rural markets which contributed to their growth in 4G. "The early adaptors were leveraged by Jio primarily in the urban space and as incumbent operators got ready with their 4G in full scale, they focused on rural markets to look for growth," added Faisal.
The analysis further pointed that as against 26 percent rural subscribers using Jio 4G, incumbents had 53 percent of their 4G subscribers added in the rural market.