Reliance Jio, Airtel Take War To Fibre Space

Move over telecom wars. Reliance Jio and Airtel have now drawn battle lines in the fiber space.

In a move similar to its telecom foray when it offered free 4G mobile services, the Mukesh Ambani-owned firm is now offering 90 days’ complimentary access for its yet-to-be-launched wireline broadband service Jio GigaFiber.

Both the firms have been aggressively pushing their products. While Airtel’s V-fiber has been available for some time, Jio is conducting trials for GigaFiber and is expected to launch soon. A recent entrant in this space has been state-run telecom player BSNL, which last week announced the launch of Bharat Fiber, its own fiber-to-home service for which bookings have begun. BSNL is offering data downloads at 35 GB per day with prices as low as Rs 1.1 per GB.

Once fiber to the home (FTTH) networks penetrate in areas significantly, it will lead to the biggest convergence for wireline voice, internet and TV services through one medium.

The rollover option for carrying forward the data and bundled content offers of Airtel TV/Jio TV, Amazon Prime and Netflix, as well as other respective offerings of the content of telecom players, will be the other main feature.

Jio is yet to announce any specific plan, but initial offers suggest monthly data of 100 GB at a speed of 100 Mbps and above. Though one has to pay an interest-free refundable security deposit of Rs 4,500, sources said. The registrations for Jio GigaFiber services began last year on the Independence Day.

The service aims to connect up to 50 million homes in India. Jio GigaFiber set up at home will include a Jio GigaFiber router and a Jio GigaTV Set-top box and internet services can be accessed on multiple devices.

Airtel’s plans start at Rs 999 with 250 GB data at a speed of 100 Mbps and go up to Rs 1759 for 1200 GB data at 300 Mbps. There is zero installation fee and a discount of 20 percent if one opts for quarterly, half-yearly and annual plans, sources said. For existing Airtel broadband users, one needs to just upgrade the modem for accessing a particular speed. Airtel plans to reach 10 million homes by 2020.

In an email response, an Airtel spokesperson said it is the number one private fixed broadband service provider with presence in 89 cities. “V-Fiber’s network offers super-fast broadband speeds of up to 300 Mbps over WiFi and our network is ready for speeds up to 1 Gbps. Going forward, our focus will be on aggressively expanding our network coverage deeper within existing cities as well as rolling out services in new cities. Our focus will continue to be on delivering the best-in-class experience and value to our customers.”

According to the numbers announced in the third quarter results last week, JioGigaFiber has reached 1,400 cities and Jio is currently connecting homes on priority based on the requests received and optimizing its service offerings.

To strengthen its broadband and fiber play, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), the group company, is also awaiting regulatory approvals to complete the recently announced investment in Den Networks Ltd and Hathway Cable and Datacom Ltd. Post completion of the transaction, Reliance and Jio will be strengthening the business model of 27,000 LCOs (local cable operators) that are aligned with DEN and Hathway across 750 cities, by creating multiple future opportunities with new services and platforms.

India has a mobile user base of over 1 billion with 560 million internet users, including 21.25 million wireline broadband users. Of the total wireline base, state-run telecom player BSNL holds over 58 % market share with 12.35 million users, followed by Bharti Airtel with 2.24 million users.

The wireline broadband subscriber base can increase to 100 million households by the fiscal year 2024, and the revenue generated from these segments could expand to Rs 80,000 crore as against Rs 14,500 crore now, a recent report by Icra said.

The telecom sector has been under tremendous financial strain after the entry of Reliance Jio which increased the competition manifold with low tariffs. The wireline broadband segment could be a major source of revenues at a time when telecom services are on a decline.

Wired up

  • Jio’s initial offers suggest monthly data of 100 GB at a speed of 100 Mbps and above.
  • One has to pay an interest-free refundable deposit of Rs 4500. The service is eyeing 50 million homes
  • Airtel’s plans start at Rs 999 with 250 GB data at a speed of 100 Mbps and go up to Rs 1759 for 1200 GB data
  • There is zero installation fee and a discount of 20 percent if one opts for quarterly, half-yearly plans ―DNA India
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