Google+ Followers

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Airtel to slash 4G data rates by 31%

  • Sunday, 23 June 2013
  • Harmeet Saini
  • Share
  •   Bharti Airtel will cut 4G data charges by 31%, in an aggressive bid to boost mass appetite for fourth-generation wireless broadband services and also make life more difficult for future challengers. Skeptics, however, wonder if the move to offer 4G services at 3G rates will actually translate into higher data usage or help expand its modest 4G subscriber base. 

    The move comes barely a week after India's biggest mobile phone company by customers and revenue cut 2G data charges by nearly 90% to shore up data usage and spur revenue streams. It also comes at a time when the Sunil Mittal-founded telco has been adding fewer customers than closest rivals, Vodafone andIdea Cellular over the past two months. 

    A top company executive said, "Airtel will offer 4G speeds at 3G price-points to make fourth generation wireless broadband services more affordable and stiffen the challenge for new competition," without naming Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Jio Infocomm, which is slated to roll out 4G services nationally in a year. 

    Bharti Airtel will lower its base 4G data plan from 650 to 450 to offer "more value" to customers in Kolkata, Bangalore, Pune and Chandigarh where it runs fourth generation wireless broadband services. 

    Under the revised data tariff plan, entry-level customers will be allowed 2GB, 3GB and 4GB of free data usage at faster 4G speeds at 3G data charges of 450, 650 and 750 a month respectively. But they won't have access to Bharti's 4G entertainment library services, which will be reserved for customers on higher data plans, from 999 and above. 

    Airtel customers on these higher-end 4G plans will have free access to a digital library of 1,000-odd movies and 100 games evolved in partnership with BigFlix and Indiagames, said another company executive who did not wish to be named. At the highest end, Airtel 4G customers on 2,999 and 4,799 data plans will be offered bigger free usage limits of 45 GB and 80 GB compared with the earlier levels of 30 GB and 50 GB respectively. 

    Mahesh Uppal, director of Com First (India), a consultancy dealing in telecom regulatory affairs, believes Airtel's move "was inevitable" to boost mass appetite for 4G and also make life more difficult for its future challenger, Reliance Jio Infocomm. 
    "Data markets need to be developed, and a logical way of doing that is by increasing affordability since 4G has not seen meaningful traction in India yet in the absence of an evolved devices ecosystem. In that sense, Airtel's decision to cut data charges also makes potential 4G tariff offers from new competition like Reliance Jio Infocomm less attractive," said Uppal. 

    But sector analysts wonder whether Airtel's decision to offer 4G speeds at 3G rates will actually translate into higher data usage or expand its modest 4G subscriber base. Airtel declined to reveal its 4G customer count but industry circles reckon it is below 15,000 a year after Bharti became the first telco to launch 4G in India. 

    For instance, Uppal concedes that "bundling bigger dollops of GBs" might not immediately result in market expansion or enhance data usage since 4G customers seldom exhaust their free limits as movie downloads and multimedia apps are yet to catch on in a big way with the masses. 

    Fomer VSNL chairman & managing director B K Syngal, who is now senior principal at telecom consultancy firm Dua Consulting, agrees. "It is a consumer-friendly move to increase penetration but is unlikely to result in serious market expansion since Airtel's 4G operation is confined to only four cities," he said.

    Punjabi Mania

    The Hacker News [ THN ] - World's First Dedicated Security Blog

    Subscribe Me