Data bonanza: Airtel, Reliance Jio readying for a war in the fixed line broadband

NEW DELHI: Customers using high-speed fixed line broadband at home are in for a bonanza, courtesy the next phase of the price war between Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio, with the first phase being currently played out in the wireless space.

Bharti Airtel will now offer up to 100% more high speed data benefits for the same price under its refreshed plans, with a clear aim to retain subscribers ahead of Jio’s commercial launch of similar services, called JioFiber. “We believe these new plans will also drive the adoption of high speed broadband in the country,” Hemanth Kumar Guruswamy, CEO – Homes, Bharti Airtel (India) said in a statement Wednesday. Airtel’s move to slash effective rates for its home broadband customers comes even as the Mukesh Ambani-owned telco is in the process of rolling out its free JioFiber Preview offer for its broadband service in select areas of Mumbai, Delhi-NCR, Ahmedabad, Jamnagar, Surat and Vadodara.

The service is widely expected to commercially hit the market in June this year. Analysts say that home broadband will become crucial for high-end data users, given the affordable pricing in India. They say that Jio’s entry would open up the market and create more demand.

“Fixed line broadband is a new front for telcos, but its implications will be seen much later since the availability of fixed line broadband is still very sparse and a very few people depend on it,” ComFirst director Mahesh Uppal said. “The implications are more for heavy users, especially in metro areas where network has reach and capacity. That is where we will see some competition,” he added.
Airtel had 19,66,000 broadband customers as of March 31, 2017, with state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. the market leader with around 10 million users.

The country had 18.68 million wireline broadband user as on January 31, 2017, or a teledensity of under 2%, according to Trai data. This is a far cry from over a billion mobile phone users in the country, with a teledensity of nearly 91%. In order to better compete with JioFiber, which will be offering speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second, Airtel recently rolled out Airtel Surprises and myHome Rewards that offered free additional data benefits to customers.

In addition, it introduced ‘V-Fiber’ services based on vectorization technology that allows its copper-based fixed-line network to offer up to 100 Mbps to homes. V-Fiber is available in areas where Airtel doesn’t have fiber to offer broadband service. Seeing the potential in the market, Hyderabad-based ACT has already launched India’s first 1Gbps wired broadband internet service with 1 tera byte of data usage in Hyderabad targeting retail and start-up customers in the city.

Fixed broadband continues to be the preferred mode of high speed data delivery given its consistent speeds. In-home high speed data consumption in India is increasing exponentially with customers looking to stream HD/4K content, download heavy file across a variety of connected devices. Airtel said that fixed broadband in the near future will also enable the IoT play for homes with connected appliances and much more.

It added that its Rs 899 plan will now offer 60 GB high speed data compared to 30 GB earlier, while the Rs 1099 plan will now offer 90 GB of high speed data compared to 50 GB earlier.

Similar large increments in data benefits have been effected at every price point in every city with unlimited calling to any network available across all plans.
Airtel said that existing customers will be upgraded to the new benefits automatically within the current bill cycle while new customers can choose from a host of plans that offer great value backed by best-in-class high speed broadband experience.

Customers can check their data balance on ‘My Airtel’ app.



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