Bharti Airtel said that it now has 2 million home broadband subscribers which include both fiber and non-fiber users. Additionally, the telco is offering free monthly ‘topped up’ data and free video content (via Airtel Movies portal) to all existing subscribers who own an Airtel broadband connection.
The development comes almost 4 months after Airtel started rolling out fiber-based Internet services in the country. At that time, the company said that it would offer unlimited calling, free data of up to 5GB per month with every new connection, and to users migrating to fiber services. Currently, Airtel’s fiber service is live in 8 cities including Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Ahmedabad, Bhopal and Indore.
How Airtel stacks up against other providers
Apart from Airtel, new entrant Reliance Jio is also speculated to launch fiber services, although the company has not made any official announcement yet. Other notable fiber Internet service providers include ACT Fibernet, which is live across 11 cities; Spectranet which offers unlimited Internet without FUP in 8 cities; and Vodafone-owned YOU broadband, which is live in 15 cities.
TRAI’s recent telecom subscription numbers show that there were 18 million wired broadband subscribers in India as of November 2016, with state-owned telco BSNL owning most of the connections (9 million). Airtel stood second with 2.03 million connections, ACT has 1.14 million connections, MTNL has 1.05 million and YOU Broadband has 600,000 users.
BharatNet project funding and competition
Last week, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Bharat Net, the government owed fiber infrastructure line would get an additional Rs 10,000 crore boost to meet targets faster. Currently, BharatNet is present in 59,000 gram panchayats, and the government plans to extend the project to 1 lakh villages by 2018. As we pointed out above, state-owned telco BSNL already owns a majority of the connections in India; it could soon start using BharatNet infrastructure to reach small villages and Tier-3 cities. This will eventually force private players to invest more in broadband and fiber services since most private broadband players have deployed broadband only in metro and Tier-2 cities.