Anybody tracking the Indian Telecommunications sector can say that Sunil Mittal lost sight of India when he went for acquisition in Africa and other countries as Indian market threw lots of surprises. Worst nightmare for Mittal is his entire Revenue model in Voice being under threat as Reliance Jio wants to offer FREE Voice Calls forever. Airtel is also severely lagging in offering huge Mobile Data Bundles compared to Jio. Airtel not only neglected but turned clod shoulders towards its DSL Broadband Subscribers for over a decade now – No F***ing innovative offerings nor upgrade in Infrastructure to offer higher speeds barring few areas of only Metro Cities [Forget Tier II and Tier III] where FTTH was laid.
To date, all the Indian telcos have had limited focus on Fixed / Mobile Convergence [FMC], with Airtel being the only private telco (apart from state-owned BSNL/MTNL) which could offer FMC. In fact, Airtel also has a DTH business allowing it to offer triple-play (currently billing is separate with limited push towards triple-play offering). It was only after new entrant Reliance Jio announced its intention to offer mobile, fiber broadband and pay TV, that there was renewed focus by Airtel to get ready with required investments to focus on FMC if it picks up in the market.
Fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) helps telcos which are looking 1) for alternate avenues for growth without taking much risk as core mobile growth is becoming saturated; 2) to get a larger share of the customers’ wallet by offering complementing service; and 3) to better monetize their fiber investments which are currently focused more on the mobile front.
Airtel under its “Project leap” initiative announced in Nov-2015, said that it will focus back on the neglected fixed broadband business, by modernizing its 3 Mn+ home broadband network to offer 50 Mbps speed and intends to deploy Fiber to the home. In Apr-2016, Vodafone announced that it is buying a small fixed broadband operator “You broadband”. Airtel is best placed to offer triple-play in future if needed, and not very clear of Idea Cellular’s strategy which appears to be keen to remain as a mobile only operator.