Wired broadband: Jio top gainer as nation took to WFH


Airtel’s wired broadband connections stood at 2.44 million in April, which increased to 2.67 million in October while that of ACT increased to 1.74 million from 1.59 million. (Representative image)

Reliance Jio is turning out to be the biggest gainer from the current practice of work from home, as the telco added over 8 lakh wired broadband connections in the six months since April 2020. Bharti Airtel comes a distant second with 2.30 lakh additions, followed by ACT, which added 1.50 lakh connections. State-run BSNL, in contrast, lost 2.20 lakh connections during the same period.

As per data from Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), Jio had 0.90 million wired broadband connections in April, which increased to 1.70 million in October. Airtel’s wired broadband connections stood at 2.44 million in April, which increased to 2.67 million in October while that of ACT increased to 1.74 million from 1.59 million.

To cash in on the current practice of work from home as well as learn from home, Reliance Jio on August 31 came out with new tariff packages for fixed line broadband (FBB), with the monthly starting price point as low as Rs 399. Airtel followed suit with a starting price of Rs 499 for its FBB plans. The new plans seem to be working well for Jio as the company added around 2.7 lakh FBB connections in September and 1.8 lakh connections in October. Airtel, on its part, added about 70,000 connections each in September and October.

Analysts have noted that the current times are best suited for faster growth of fixed broadband in the country, which otherwise is an under-penetrated market with only around 21 million subscribers. It is largely the wireless or mobile broadband at around 700 million users which has led to the data boom.

As per Motiwal Oswal Financial Services, India’s home broadband market has a minuscule $2-billion market size, accounting for a meagre 9% share of the country’s Rs 1.7 lakh crore wireless market. Subscriber growth has been modest in the last five years, with annual CAGR of just 5%. It has largely been an urban product, with low penetration of 7% – due to limited network connectivity with just 80–100 million estimated home passes – which has restricted subscriber growth. This has given way to increased wireless consumption in India, which has a far easier and convenient installation/activation.

Globally, wired broadband is well-established and significantly utilised for data consumption as it is cheaper than wireless. In contrast, in India, the need for data consumption is fulfilled through wireless as it is cheaper. But with Jio’s entry in home broadband space in 2019 and its huge target, other players such as Bharti Airtel have also increased their focus in this space in a bid to gain ground.

As per Motilal Oswal, industry average revenue per user (arpu) in the home broadband market has remained fairly stable at Rs 400–Rs 500 for copper connectivity and Rs 700–Rs 800 for fibre to home (FTTH) packages.

Recently, Gopal Vittal, Bharti Airtel MD and CEO (India and South Asia), said fixed broadband was witnessing a very high traction, given the current context when most of the people are working from home due to Covid-19 pandemic.

Jio, which is late entrant in the FBB market has so far rolled out fibre in over 1,500 cities and aims to have 50 million homes and enterprises on fibre broadband.

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