As Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio continues to attract users at breakneck speed – adding 16 million users in less than a month – Airtel, the country’s largest telecom operator, is upgrading its wired broadband network and reducing the cost of voice and data.
To attract new users, Airtel will provide unlimited data for free for three months.
Reliance Jio only provides high-speed wireless internet and is offering unlimited free data to all its users until December and is expected to extend the offer.
As part of its Rs 60,000 crore Project Leap, Airtel implemented ‘vectorisation’ technology that allows it to deliver broadband speed of up to 100 mbps without replacing the existing infrastructure. It will change the modem at the user’s home at a one-time cost of Rs 1,000.
So far, this is the biggest technology upgrade in the wired broadband sector involving five million users.
India’s data consumption has risen rapidly as more people buy smart televisions, use multiple devices on a Wi-Fi network, for which one needs high-speed internet.
Globally, companies such as British Telecom, Fast Web, TI, Ericomm, and Telefonica use the same technology.
“We will use the same fibre network in the back and the front ends, use sound-cancellation technology, and change the router to provide high speed,” said Ajay Puri, director (operations) at Bharti Airtel.
Puri added the existing users will be upgraded to higher speeds at no extra cost. They can also continue with current data packs. Airtel’s rivals Vodafone and Idea Cellular have negligible presence in wired broadband. An Idea spokesperson said, “Our focus is on wireless broadband… not wired broadband.”
In a Wi-Fi network, higher speeds help. Multiple devices split the broadband speed equally, which means if four devices are being used on a 8-mbps connection, each one gets 2 mbps, and if the speed is 100 mbps, each device gets 25 mbps.
Airtel has launched three more schemes for its home broadband users – myHome Rewards gives 5GB additional data for every airtel subscription service (including postpaid and DTH connections), Airtel Surprises is for data top-ups at very low cost, and free voice calls from the landline.
This also marks Airtel’s shift from realisation per service to absolute revenue per user. It wants each of its users to use a large number of services from Airtel.
“We are looking at the business in a slightly different manner. Offering some extra data is of marginal cost, because we have already billed the infrastructure and delivery cost,” Puri said.