Airtel declares broadband war on Jio

The Mittal-led telco will bundle customised Android-based smart set top box for fast broadband speed.


KOLKATA: Bharti Airtel is pulling out all stops to take on Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio Infocomm’s home broadband offerings. Come September, the Sunil Mittal-led telco will bundle a customised Android-based smart set top box (STB) to deliver converged digital entertainment and fast broadband services, aimed at matching JioFiber’s upcoming offerings. 
Airtel’s Android STB is likely to come bundled with a host of new-look, integrated tariff packs that will target midto-top end post-paid mobile users, home broadband and direct-to-home (DTH) digital TV customers, treating them as unified home users of the company’s converged telecom services, two people with direct knowledge said. 
Airtel may also selectively bundle a free HD/LED television along with the set top box on super-premium tariff packs to specifically counter Jio-Fiber’s ‘Welcome Offer’ to home broadband customers, they added. 
Bharti Airtel, it is learnt, has internally piloted an integrated billing system in Chandigarh, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, and is ready to operationalise it nationally from next month. 
“Airtel has sizeable customer numbers across its post-paid mobile, home broadband and DTH platforms…The objective is to use hardware resources and leverage existing customer relationships across the three lines of business to take an integrated view of the consumer to grow the company’s base of users opting for higher revenue-generating converged telecom services,” one of the persons cited told ET. 
Customers opting for Airtel’s upcoming suite of converged entertainment-cumbroadband services will access premium OTT content, streaming applications, HD television channels, virtual reality apps to interactive gaming services, in addition to high-speed broadband with potential base speeds of 100 Mbps on select plans. Pricing and bundling strategies would be “calibrated in line with competitive intensity,” post-Jio’s home broadband services launch, another person said.
At press time, ET’s queries to Airtel went unanswered. 
Last week, RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani had said telecom arm Reliance Jio would launch home broadband services from September 5, with plans ranging between Rs 700 and Rs 10,000 a month. Experts have said Jio’s promise of a free high-definition TV and a set top box for people opting for its annual broadband plans as part of a ‘Welcome Offer’ could unleash another wave of disruption in the telecom and DTH markets. 
People aware of developments said Airtel could roll out its converged entertainment-cum-broadband tariff packs early next month around the time of the JioFiber launch. 
Earlier this month, Airtel’s chief executive Gopal Vittal said on an earnings call that the company’s immediate game plan is to take steps to make it attractive for customers to upgrade to higher, value-rich tariff plans that would help sustain average revenue per user (ARPU) growth momentum. Airtel’s India mobile services business has lately shown strong revival signals, underlined by growth in ARPU. 
Goldman Sachs sees low possibility of churn for Airtel in the home broadband space, post-Jio’s big-ticket announcements as the Sunil Mittalled telco has been upgrading customers to higher bandwidth offerings. 
Airtel’s home services ARPU grew 1.2% sequentially to Rs 825 in the quarter ended June, although its performance on this metric was weaker in the digital TV services space. Its digital TV services ARPU fell nearly 33% sequentially to Rs 157 in the fiscal first quarter.



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