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Faster, Cheaper, Better: Home broadband space witnesses greater traction

July 12, 2017

While the wireless broadband market has grown exponentially in recent years, the wireline broadband segment has lagged behind considerably. That scenario could, however, be changing now. With the growing pressure on wireless networks and the government’s focus on fibre deployment through BharatNet, fixed broadband is expected to see a surge in adoption.

This segment has so far been dominated by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Bharti Airtel. However, of late, new pure-play internet service providers (ISPs) and cable internet operators have entered the market. Most of these are local players that are able to customise their home broadband offerings and prices according to local needs. The expected launch of fibre services by Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited is likely to disrupt the market further.

A look at some of the home broadband plans being offered by different types of service providers…

Telecom operators

In the past six months, both Airtel and BSNL have increased their data limit and in some cases, their internet speeds. For instance, in December 2016, Airtel launched its V-Fiber plan in Mumbai, and followed it up with launches in Ahmedabad, Pune, Indore, Bhopal, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. These plans were priced at either Rs 699 or Rs 999, depending on the city, and were aimed at both existing and new customers. The speeds started from 40 Mbps, while the data limits varied according to the plans. Airtel rolled out another scheme, called Airtel Surprises, in February 2017, on achieving a milestone of 2 million home broadband subscribers. The plan offered free monthly data top-ups to existing broadband subscribers at no extra cost.

In April 2017, Airtel partnered with Amazon for Amazon’s Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote. Under this, Airtel customers buying Amazon Fire TVs receive about 100 GB of free data. Customers get data in buckets of 35 GB per month for three months. In May 2017, Airtel further enhanced the data benefits under its home broadband plans. Its Rs 899 plan now gives users 60 GB of high speed data compared to 30 GB earlier, while the Rs 1,099 plan gives 90 GB of high speed data compared to 50 GB earlier. Similar increments in data benefits have been implemented at every price point in every city with unlimited calling available to any network across all plans. Airtel also launched the 1,000 GB extra data offer for its customers in Delhi-NCR. This offer is open and valid only for Delhi-NCR subscribers opting for Airtel broadband services on or after May 16. The bonus 1,000 GB will be provided to digital subscriber line (DSL) broadband users opting for the Rs 1,099, Rs 1,299, Rs 1,499 or Rs 1,799 plans. Users of the base plan of Rs 899 get 750 GB data for a year. Currently, Airtel has monthly plans ranging from Rs 599 (in Mumbai) to Rs 1,799 (in Delhi). The plan details vary from circle to circle, but all plans offer a speed range of 8 Mbps to 100 Mbps and a data range of 20 GB to 220 GB.

BSNL has also made significant revisions to its broadband plans to make them more lucrative. In December 2016, it offered a discount of 0.75 per cent on the invoiced amount (excluding service tax) while making online or electronic payments before the pay-by date. This was effective from December 22, 2016 till March 31, 2017, and applied to post-paid bills (landline, broadband, GSM) and GSM prepaid recharges. In March 2017, it extended the validity of its BB249 broadband plan till June 30, 2017. The validity was extended for all circles except Jammu & Kashmir and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. This offer can only be availed of by new BSNL broadband users and is also available with the BSNL fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) service. BSNL has waived the installation charges for this scheme. The plan offers benefits such as 2 Mbps speed up to 1 GB and 1 Mbps speed after crossing the fair usage policy (FUP) of 1 GB. This plan can also be upgraded to the BSNL BBG Combo ULD 499 plan that offers a speed of 2 Mbps up to 2 GB, and a speed of 1 Mbps beyond the FUP. In April 2017, BSNL started offering up to 300 GB of data per month as part of its Unlimited 249 broadband plan. This plan includes partial free calls during the night time. It will remain valid till September 2017, after which users will have to pay Rs 499 for the same plan. This plan was initially available to BSNL users till March, but was extended later. Under the plan, users get 10 GB of daily data with speeds up to 2 Mbps. On exhausting the 10 GB data limit, the speed will be reduced to 1 Mbps. BSNL will also allow users to make unlimited free calls from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. on Sundays as part of the plan. Moreover, it has slashed the amount for some plans by half while retaining the same data allowance. When users cross their FUP limit, they can recharge to restore the FUP. The recharge amounts, which earlier used to be Rs 100 for 2 GB of data, Rs 200 for 5 GB, Rs 300 for 10 GB and Rs 500 for 20 GB, have now been reduced by 50 per cent.

In May 2017, BSNL again increased the data quotient for its existing and new broadband users with data plans (fixed monthly charges) of Rs 675 and above. Further, the initial download speed has been enhanced to a minimum of 4 Mbps, before the FUP kicks in. Furthermore, the FUP has been raised by up to 250 per cent. Currently, BSNL has monthly plans ranging from Rs 249, which offers a speed of 2 Mbps and a data limit of 1 GB at the entry level, to Rs 3,445, offering a speed of 24 Mbps and a data limit of 100 GB. BSNL has a pan-Indian rate for its plans.

Cable TV broadband operators

Hathway Broadband has quarterly plans ranging from Rs 1,947 to Rs 4,499, offering speed and data ranges of 5 Mbps and 25 GB respectively under the Rs 1,947 plan, and 50 Mbps and 450 GB respectively under the Rs 4,499 plan. Other plans – priced at Rs 2,397, Rs 2,697, Rs 2,999, Rs 3,297 and Rs 3,747 – offer different speeds (10 Mbps to 150 Mbps) and data limits (70 GB to 220 GB). The plans vary from city to city.

Den Boomband has monthly plans ranging from Rs 555 to Rs 3,500. The basic Rs 555 plan offers a speed of 5 Mbps and 60 GB of data, while the Rs 3,500 plan offers a speed of 100 Mbps and 100 GB of data. Other plans are priced at Rs 707, Rs 666, Rs 777, Rs 999 and Rs 1,200, and offer different speeds (7 Mbps to 50 Mbps) and data limits (30 GB to unlimited).

Among other cable TV broadband operators is state-owned Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation that offers plans from 2 Mbps to 20 Mbps, with the FUP ranging from 5 GB to 150 GB. These plans are priced in the range of Rs 299 to Rs 1,599. The pricing scheme of these operators is quite competitive and their data allowance is worth noting, especially in light of the fact that their data allowance is far higher than that being provided by telecom broadband providers.

Pure-play ISPs

ACT Fibernet has a twin load feature, which is separate from download FUP. This implies that a plan may have upload and download speeds of 75 Mbps, and 200 GB of upload FUP and 200 GB of download FUP. The ISP is unique in much as its data and speed are concerned. In March 2017, ACT Fibernet upgraded its existing internet plans for customers in Hyderabad. While the entry-level plan, A-Max 410, was upgraded from 2 Mbps to 5 Mbps with download and upload limits of 60 GB each, A-Max 650 was upgraded to 25 Mbps from 10 Mbps with new upload and download FUP of 100 GB. A-Max 1050 was upgraded to 60 Mbps from 40 Mbps with new upload and download FUP of 200 GB. The company  did the same for its customers in Delhi. Its Bronze plan was doubled to 100 GB FUP from 50 GB FUP, the Silver plan to 150 GB FUP from 75 GB FUP and the Gold plan to 200 GB FUP from 100 GB FUP. The basic plan was upgraded to 50 GB FUP download from 30 GB FUP download.

ACT Fibernet continued its speed upgradation in April 2017, when it upgraded its internet plans for customers in Chennai. It upgraded the ACT Blaze Plan to 75 Mbps with 100 GB FUP (100 GB upload and 100 GB download), and the ACT Thunder Plan to 100 Mbps and 225 GB FUP (225 GB upload and 225 GB download). The ACT Incredible Plan offered 150 Mbps and 350 GB FUP at no extra cost.

Currently, ACT Fibernet has monthly plans ranging from Rs 499 to Rs 5,999. The plans vary from city to city, and offer speeds ranging from 10 Mbps to 1 Gbps (in Hyderabad; other places have maximum speeds of 125-200 Mbps depending upon the location) and data ranging from 40 GB to 1 TB.

SpectraNet, based in Gurgaon, also offers fibre optic broadband services. In February 2017, SpectraNet was launched in Bengaluru with an offer of unlimited data usage with a symmetric speed of 100 Mbps, allowing users 100 Mbps upload and download speeds. The unlimited high speed fibre broadband plan is priced at Rs 1,199 in the new launch areas. Currently, SpectraNet has reduced its prices in some circles, and has monthly plans ranging from Rs 899 to Rs 1,849. The plans, however, vary from city to city, and broadly offer a speed and data range of 20 Mbps and 100 GB respectively to 100 Mbps and unlimited. Other plans are priced at Rs 1,049, Rs 1,359 and Rs 1,549, and offer different speeds and data limits in different cities.

Among other pure-play ISPs, TICFIBER of Chennai has plans ranging from Rs 800 to Rs 1,800 per month. The speeds vary from 25 Mbps to 125 Mbps, with the FUP varying from 100 GB to 700 GB. Tikona Digital Networks offers monthly plans in the range of Rs 550 to Rs 1,400. The speeds vary from 3 Mbps to 10 Mbps, while data ranges from 30 GB to unlimited, depending on the plan. Excitel offers monthly plans from Rs 495 to Rs 795 in Hyderabad and Rs 695 to Rs 995 in Delhi, with speeds varying from 50 Mbps to 100 Mbps. The data allowance is unlimited.

Conclusion

The presence of both pan-Indian and local players is leading to a high degree of competition in the home broadband segment, thereby resulting in affordable service and enhanced coverage. Going forward, rising data allowances and speeds, and the increasing penetration of DSL and fibre-to-the premises/FTTH technologies will drive the uptake of faster and cheaper internet connectivity.

 
 

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