Idea Cellular overtakes Vodafone as most preferred MNP network

by T Thomas



Idea Cellular replaced Vodafone as the most preferred network provider for those who use mobile number portability to change their operator.

MNP was introduced in 2011 and has completed five years in India, but certain trends are visible when we compare the performance of telecom companies in the first half (mid-2011 to 2013) and the second half (2014 to mid-2016).

The trends show the rise of Idea’s popularity among MNP users and the decline of Airtel and Vodafone’s attractiveness.

In the second half (2014 onwards), Idea was the chosen destination for about 26.78% of all those who opted to do mobile number portability. Vodafone had been the most sought-after operator in the initial years.

These trends show what experienced telecom users want.

While first-time users may be swayed by advertising and promotions, MNP users generally take into account a lot of other factors such as network quality and customer service.


Till 2013, Vodafone was the most sought-after destination in MNP, accounting for 26.82% of all porting requests. This fell to 25.13% of all requests for the period starting in 2014.

Similarly, 24.66% of the users wanted to port to Bharti Airtel in the 2011-13 period, while this fell to just 22.84% in 2014-2016 (up to May).

Idea’s situation is the opposite.

The company was chosen by only 23.53% of all ‘porters’ in the period 2011-13, while in the period starting 2014, Idea accounted for a whopping 26.77% of all port-in requests.

This is bad news for the Airtel and Vodafone — the No. 1 and No. 2 of the market.

Despite outspending Idea on TV and print ads, the consumers seem to be voting in favor of the No. 3 player.


However, port-ins are only part of the picture.

There are two more factors to consider when looking at the MNP performance of an operator: its share in total port-outs (the lower the better) and the spread (difference) between its port in share and port out share.

If the port in share is higher than the port out share, the operator benefits from the MNP process, and vice versa.

First, a quick look at the port out percentages in both periods.

Among the big three, both Bharti and Vodafone have managed to rope in port out rates in the second half (see the red line in the picture below), while Idea’s port out rate has actually increased in the second half, though it was low to begin with.



In terms of spreads, all three continue to remain in the positive, implying that they are getting more subscribers from porting than they are losing, thus maintaining an overall positive net balance.

However, out of the three, only Idea has been able to substantially increase its spread while Vodafone has the gap between its port ins and port outs reduce in spite of a decline port outs.


Bharti has, meanwhile managed to eke out a small improvement in its spread as well, which is good news for the company.

The worst performer is Aircel, which has seen a sharp increase in its deficit between port in and port out shares.

Other operators who have seen sharp improvements are Reliance GSM, Tata DoCoMo GSM, BSNL and Telenor.

However, these figures are impacted by shut downs. For example, Uninor was forced to shut down its operations in many circles in 2013, leading to a spike in its port out rates in the 2011-13 period.

Similarly, Videocon and Reliance Telecom exited their business in the 2015-16, which gave a boost to other operators.

Without such one-time events, Bharti would probably not have been able to show an improvement in its spread and the gains shown by Reliance GSM and Tata DoCoMo GSM may have been smaller.


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