Bharti Airtel’s home broadband users have started getting more bang for their buck before Reliance Jio Infocomm launches a similar service under the GigaFiber brand. Airtel has removed the fair usage policy data limit on select monthly home broadband packs in over 20 key markets and turned them into unlimited data plans in a bid to preempt customer churn. Jio started registering consumers for its upcoming service on August 15. The telco had offered unlimited home broadband plans only in Hyderabad until now and extending it to other major markets is seen as a move to retain its 2.4-million active wired broadband users.
Last month, the company had given 15% and 20% discounts to customers opting for its home broadband packs (offering speeds of up to 300 Mbps) for six months and one year, respectively, across 89 cities. Now, the country’s No. 1 telco and second-largest wired broadband company has converted a range of data plans in various cities into unlimited broadband packs.
Airtel’s introduction of unlimited home broadband data plans in key markets comes when sector analysts expect Jio to shortly unveil a mass-market, high-speed, wired broadband service bundled with internet-based television programming starting at about Rs 500 a month.
Airtel declined to reply to ET’s queries till press time.
However, a senior company executive said that Airtel’s entire home broadband network is now to be delivered on V-fibre that offers speeds up to 300 Mbps over Wi-Fi and the company is equipped to upgrade speeds to 1 Gbps wherever customers need it.
“Airtel is trying to prevent customer churn before Jio launches its fibre-based home broadband services and turning key plans into unlimited data offers in big markets can be an effective way of doing that, especially since incremental capacity augmentation costs are tiny in the fixed broadband business, unlike in the case of mobile broadband services,” Naveen Kulkarni, telecom analyst at Phillip Capital, told ET.
Rohan Dhamija, partner & head for India, South Asia & Middle East at Analysys Mason, backed the view, although he added that “Airtel could be limited in terms of offering the best speeds as it still does not have fibre laid out in several of its 89-odd home broadband markets and is deploying DSL technology, which is less efficient.
Airtel had already cut rates earlier for some of its plans and increased data allowances. While this led to its home services revenue shrinking over 14% on-year to Rs 574.5 crore in the quarter ended June, Airtel attributed the fall to “rising affordable mobile broadband penetration.
Another senior Airtel executive recently said that the company is likely to set aside a sizeable portion of its Rs 24,000 crore capital expenditure plan for FY19 to expand its broadband network to at least 100 key cities from 89 now.
The company plans to connect another 10 million-plus homes by FY21, which it expects will translate into at least 3 million to 5 million new home service customers over the next three years.