(By Riddhi Mukherjee & Vikas SN)
Update: Earlier this month members of the India Broadband Forum and ACT Broadband users posted complaints of port forwarding issues due to NAT blocking experienced on the network. (Hat Tip – Gautam John) One of the users complained that he was unable to access the IP address of his home network. The issue was resolved later when his computer’s IP address was linked to his ACT account, thus eliminating the need for PPPoE or login pages. Another user complained of a similar issue on his office network. Apparently all ACT connections in Bangalore were being NATed through a single IP addressed server in Chennai.
Earlier (July 28): Bangalore-based Broadband, Cable & Digital TV service provider Atria Convergence Technologies (ACT) has rebranded its broadband brand ACT Broadband as ACT Fibernet and has introduced a new 60 Mbps plan with an FUP of 100GB and priced at Rs 1999. The company claims this is the fastest speed provided by any service provider in the retail segment right now.
It also seems to have revamped the existing plans and has upgraded its entire subscriber base in Bangalore to these new plans. The company will also possibly upgrade its user base outside Bangalore to these new plans as well.
ACT currently claims to have around 500,000 broadband subscribers in the country. ACT Group CEO Bala Malladi has told TelevisionPost that Hyderabad currently accounts for 380,000 of these broadband susbcribers.
Raising 500 Crore investment to double its broadband base
Malladi is hoping to double its broadband base to 1 million over the next 18 months, of which it hopes to add 200,000 subscribers from Hyderabad and 300,000 subscribers from Bangalore, Chennai and other areas. ACT Fibernet is currently available in Bangalore, Chennai, Nellore, Vijayawada, Hyderabad, and Eluru. (You can check if ACT Fibernet is available in your area here.)
Malladi told the publication that they intend to raise and invest Rs 500 crore for this initiative. Of this, it is raising Rs 350 crore as debt while the remaining Rs 150 crore will apparently come from its existing shareholders. It’s worth noting that ACT is backed by the private equity firm India Value Fund Advisors (IVFA) which became the majority shareholder in the company in 2008. It had also raised $23 million of debt financing from Olympus Capital Asia Credit (OCA Credit) and Kilimanjaro Credit Fund in February this year.
Stake hike in Beam Telecom
Last month, ACT had also acquired an additional 20% stake in Hyderabad-based ISP Beam Telecom for an undisclosed amount, thereby increasing its stake in the company to 80%, as indicated by a separate TelevisionPost report.
Malladi had also told the publication that they will buying out the remaining stake soon, following which Beam Telecom will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the company. It’s worth noting that Beam Telecom website already mentions that it is a ACT group company.
The report says that ACT had raised Rs 180 crore of debt to fund this stake hike. The balance amount was used as capital expenditure for expansion of its broadband business and digitisation of its cable TV network. Back then, Malladi had also stated plans to raise additional Rs 200 crore to further expand its broadband and cable TV businesses.
About 60% of the investments were expected to be utilised for its broadband business. The company was also looking at acquisitions of cable TV networks which had more than 150,000 subscribers.
Interestingly, the report had then mentioned that ACT has 450,000 broadband subscribers. So, it seems that over 50,000 broadband subscribers have been added in the past month-and-a-half. The broadband business currently contributes 70% of ACT’s total revenue.
The company had reported revenues of Rs 500 crore in the fiscal year ended March 31, 2014 (FY14) and is hoping to double this to Rs 1,000 crore by the next fiscal, as indicated by a Deccan Herald report.
BSNL is currently the largest player in wired connections segment with 9.98 million broadband connections as per the latest TRAI numbers (pdf). This is followed by Bharti Airtel with 1.4 million connections and MTNL with 1.13 million connections. ACT’s Hyderabad subsidiary Beam Telecom ranks fourth with 0.39 million connections while YOU Broadband is ranked fifth with 0.39 million connections.
That being said, India continues to have the lowest average internet speed among the countries in the Asia Pacific region. It is also languishing near the bottom in terms of high-speed broadband adoption rates.
Last year, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had reclassified the term ‘broadband’ as connections that have the capability of a minimum download speed of 512kbps, about six years after the former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran wanted to reclassify broadband as connections with 2Mbps.
Last month, DoT had also reportedly stated plans of making broadband internet a basic right under the new National Broadband Policy which is expected to be released shortly.