Airtel Offers Additional Data, Content Benefits to Mark 2-Million Broadband Subscriber Milestone

Bharti Airtel is offering additional data and content benefits, part of ‘Airtel Surprises’, to its home broadband customers within their existing plans to mark the milestone of 2 million subscribers. Notably, all Airtel home broadband customers will get free additional monthly data top-up with their existing broadband plans at no extra cost.

Airtel Offers Additional Data, Content Benefits to Mark 2-Million Broadband Subscriber Milestone

In order to avail the offers of Airtel Surprises, customers have to log on to www.airtel.in/broadbandsurprises and unlock their ‘surprise’, the company said in its release. Apart from free additional monthly high-speed data top-up, customers will also be able to get free access to Airtel Movies, it added. The company says that Airtel Movies has a collection of over 10,000 popular Hollywood and Bollywood movies, premium TV shows across a host of genres.

“We are happy to cross this milestone of 2 million customers, further consolidating our leadership as the second largest player in the fixed broadband sector in India. For us, our customers are at the heart of everything we do and therefore we are delighted to bring the latest ‘Airtel Surprises’ for them in celebration of our achievement and their trust on us. With these additional benefits our customers will be able to do much more with their existing plans,” Hemanth Kumar Guruswamy, CEO – Homes at Bharti Airtel India, was quoted as saying in company’s release.

To recall, Airtel announced the launch of its V-Fiber ‘superfast broadband’ service in India last year, starting with Chennai. The V-Fiber service, which offers speeds up to 100Mbps, is currently live in Chennai, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, Ahmedabad, Bhopal and Indore.

India’s Telecom Subscriber Base Touches 1.074 Billion in September, Says TRAI

Telephone subscriber in India crossed 1.074 billion at the end of September from 1.059 billion in the previous sequential quarter, registering a growth of 1.36 percent.

India's Telecom Subscriber Base Touches 1.074 Billion in September, Says TRAI“The number of telephone subscribers in India increased from 1,059.86 million at the end of June 16 to 1,074.24 million at the end of September 16, registering a growth of 1.36 percent over the previous quarter.

“This reflects year-on-year growth of 5.05 percent over the same quarter of last year,” TRAI said in its latest report ‘Indian Telecom Services Performance Indicators for July-September, 2016’.

TRAI report said that subscription in urban areas increased to 624.38 million at the end of September 16, but that rural subscription fell from 450.41 million to 449.86 million.

With a net addition of 14.63 million subscribers during the quarter, total wireless (GSM and CDMA technologies combined) subscriber base increased to 1,049.74 million at the end of September 2016, a growth rate of 1.41 percent over the previous quarter.

The year-on-year growth rate of wireless subscribers for September 2016 is 5.33 percent.

“The wireline subscriber base further declined from 25.74 million at the end of June 16 to 24.49 million at the end of September 2016, registering a quarterly decline rate of 1.01 percent. The year-on-year decline rate in wireline subscribers for June 16 is 5.62 percent,” it said.

Total number of Internet subscribers has increased to 367.48 million at the end of September 2016, a quarterly growth rate of 4.85 percent.

“Out of 367.48 million, Wired Internet subscribers are 21.26 million and Wireless Internet subscribers are 346.22 million,” it said.

According to TRAI report, the Gross Revenue (GR) and Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) of Telecom Service Sector for the quarter ended September 2016 was pegged at Rs. 71,379 crores and Rs. 50,539 crores, respectively.

“GR and AGR declined by 2.68 percent and 5.33 percent respectively in quarter ended September 2016 as compared to previous quarter,” it added.

Nepal Telecom and China Telecom global sign cross-border internet service deal

BEJING: Aiming to reduce Nepal’s dependence on India for its internet connectivity, a leading Chinese company and Nepal’s state-owned Nepal Telecom have signed an agreement on providing cross-border internet protocol service between the two countries.

Image result for Nepal Telecom and China Telecom global sign cross-border internet service dealThe agreement signed in Hong Kong on Tuesday between China Telecom Global and Nepal Telecom (NT) comes after the two countries were connected with optical fibre through the Geelong (Keyrong)- Rasuwagadhi border point in June, ending Nepal’s sole dependence on India for connecting it with global telecom and internet services.

Geelong Port (Kerung) of China will be used as the route for providing the internet service, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported, quoting a statement from Nepal Telecom.
“As the two countries have now been connected through terrestrial cable route, it will help Nepal to connect with telecom service providers of other countries too,” the statement said.

“It is an alternative for Nepal for international connectivity after the existing connectivity through Indian territory,” it said.

 

With this agreement, access to internet service through the route of China has been possible. As of now, Nepal has access to internet service only through Indian route, the report said.

Currently, Nepal Telecom has been connected with various Indian telecom service providers through bordering southern towns of Bhairahawa, Birgunj and Biratnagar.
¬†After the connectivity was established through optical fibre, Nepal now can be directly linked with China’s Hong Kong Data Center, which is one of the two biggest global date centers in Asia, through the Chinese mainland.

Telcos Offer Free Calls, Mobile Data to Subscribers

Chennai has been hit by one of the worst rains in several years causing floods and disrupting normal life. The country’s telecom providers, Airtel, Vodafone, BSNL, Reliance Communications, and Aircel, are now aiding subscribers in the city with several initiatives.

(Also see: Here Are Some Startups Helping Out With Chennai Floods)

Airtel subscribers in Chennai will get auto approval for ‘talk time’ credit up to Rs. 30 (the talk time offer is only for Airtel prepaid subscribers). The company will also provide credit of 10 minutes for Airtel-to-Airtel calls for prepaid customers with a validity of two days. Free credit of 50MB mobile data for Airtel prepaid customers with a validity of two days is also being offered.

For Airtel postpaid and fixed-line subscribers, the company is extending time to make payments whose bills are due to be paid immediately.

“The uninterrupted rains have also resulted in excessive water logging and disruption of essential services in Chennai, thus causing power failures and impacting our services in some regions. We at Airtel are relentlessly working with the local authorities to enable smooth mobile communication for Airtel customers across the city,” said the company in a press statement.

As for Vodafone, the company in an emailed statement said, “The incessant rains, unprecedented floods and power outages in Chennai have resulted in disruption of some of our services. While voice services were intermittent, data services were impacted. Significant proportion of these have now been restored in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The situation in Chennai remains challenging, the teams on ground are working ceaselessly with local authorities to address it on a war footing. We will continue to post updates periodically.”

The statement continued, “To enable Chennai customers to remain connected in this precarious time, Vodafone is offering pre-approved ‘chhota credit’ of Rs.10 to all pre-paid customers and a credit of 10 minutes for Vodafone to Vodafone calling.”

“In addition, free 100MB mobile data is being offered to all customers. The validity of the talk time credit and free data is two days. For postpaid customers whose bills are due for payment immediately, the time to make the payment is being extended,” the statement added.

State-run BSNL said it will allow free local and STD calls to other BSNL mobile phone users as well as 100 MB data for seven days for its prepaid users. “We have made calls free for pre-paid users in Chennai so that they dont have barrier in their mind of recharging their account in this distress situation. Priority is to enable them stay connected in this situation,” BSNL Chairman and Managing Director Anupam Shrivastava said.

BSNL estimates that the free call services may not cost it more than Rs. 25 crores. A rental rebate of seven days and extension of billing cycle by 15 days, it said in a statement.

Similarly, Reliance Communications is offering 10 minutes of all-India free calling and 50MB of data free.

Aircel will offer free 10 minutes Aircel to Aircel calls across India to all its Chennai customers for the next three days. Apart from credit of Rs 30, the operator will also provide 10 Free all India SMS and 100MB 2G/3G free data valid for 3 days.

Airtel is not the only firm that has extended an helping hand for people in Chennai as there are a handful of startups and companies offering people help. Paytm is offering Rs. 30 worth of free talk-time to anyone who would like to remain connected. Practo has a spreadsheet with phone numbers of verified doctors and hospitals available for help in an online spreadsheet. Zomato has launched a scheme where they will provide meals for flood relief victims, and is offering to buy one meal from their end for every one purchased on the website.

Reliance Jio Entry, Airtel Expansion Will Pressure Other Telcos

Industry analysts see Bharti Airtel’s Rs, 60,000 crores investment plan as a counter to Reliance Jio Infocomm’s entry, even as the rising competition will force other players to ramp up their networks.

Bharti Airtel Monday announced ‘Project Leap’, under which it plans to almost double its network with installation of over 70,000 mobile sites – marking the largest deployment in a single year since the inception of the company.

The company further intends to deploy 160,000 base stations over the next three years.

“We see this announcement as a consequence of rising competitive concerns, with RJio (Reliance Jio) set to enter the sector, and continuation of the rising capex trend that started with aggressive spectrum auction participation over the last couple of years,” Credit Suisse research analysts Sunil Tirumalai and Chunky Shah said in a report.

Bharti has around 150,000 sites for 2G and 62,000 for 3G at present, the report said.

Bharti believes that the technology it is deploying will enable it to offer 50 Mbps speeds from its current 16 Mbps by 2016. In addition, Airtel plans to deploy fiber network to homes and offer up to 100 Mbps download speeds.

As per brokerages, the capital expenditure announcement will make the sector less attractive for investors as there can be further pressure on their finances if government conducts spectrum auction in 2016.

“We believe rising capex makes the sector much less appealing to investors biased toward cash flow and gives the companies lesser room for managing their spectrum purchases in subsequent auctions without increasing leverage,” JP Morgan said in a report.

It further said that Bharti Airtel and the telecom industry are poised to face a number of structural issues such as continued pressure on voice and data realisations due to high competitive intensity and an increase in capex and network opex due to data growth.

“Rising network investment by telecom operators is going in line with our thesis and is positive for Bharti Infratel, in our view.

“The RJio launch will increase competitive intensity, spectrum pain will continue, with more auctions in pipeline,” a Morgan Stanley report by Vinay Jaising and Amruta Pabalkar said.

The JP Morgan report, authored by Viju K George, Amit Sharma and James R Sullivan, sees cannibalisation of voice services by data in the medium to long term.

“Bharti’s aggressive capex program will likely force its competitors (Vodafone/Idea) to follow suit and keep up the investment intensity for fear of being left behind,” the report said. Kotak Institutional Equities Research (KIER) said that the announced capex is around 25 percent higher than it estimated and it clearly a negative surprise in the absence of any outlook on the likely timeline and magnitude of monetisation of these investments.

“Even as Idea management has maintained that it does not expect financial year 2017-18E wireless network capex levels to be materially higher than FY 2016E guided levels of Rs. 6,000-6,500 crores, increase in Bharti’s capex spends may force a recalibration of Idea’s capex plans, in our view,” a KIER report by analysts Rohit Chordia and Abhas Gupta said.

AT&T Hiking Prices on Unlimited Data

If you’re one of the lucky remaining AT&T subscribers with an unlimited data plan, your monthly bill is about to go up.

Beginning in February, unlimited data customers will pay an extra $5 a month, making this the first time in seven years that AT&T has raised prices on the plan, the company said this week.

The rate hike is only a modest increase, particularly considering what you get with it: up to 22 GB of high-speed data (after which, as with many carriers, you could see slower mobile download speeds if AT&T determines you’re in a congested area).

Compare that to AT&T’s 20 GB Mobile Share Value plan, which costs $140 (roughly Rs. 9,200) a month – though this price does include unlimited text and voice, a service that must be purchased separately if you’re on an unlimited data plan.

AT&T’s move reflects a broader industry shift away from unlimited data. In recent months, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile have all raised their rates on unlimited data, as well. As Americans increasingly access the Internet from their mobile devices, the less it pays for carriers to offer a low, flat rate for unlimited consumption – and the more incentive they have to nudge consumers toward metered plans.

Telenor Sees 50 Percent Subscribers Using Data Services by 2017

Norwegian telecom firm Telenor expects more than half of its subscribers to use data services on their mobile devices in the country by 2017, up from 22 percent now.

“Currently, 22 percent of Telenor’s subscribers use data services on their mobile devices and we expect this to grow to over 50 percent by 2017,” a company statement said today.

Meanwhile, Telenor India announced the launch of unlimited entertainment service packs starting at Rs. 2 comprising music and video streaming.

“The new innovative pricing will allow subscribers to enjoy unlimited access to videos from sites like Hungama Music & ErosNow,” it said.

Shrinath Kotian, Circle Business Head, Telenor India, said, “our new packs have been designed to offer affordable and value for money access to unlimited music and videos without worrying about volume of data used.”

To subscribe the service, customers of Telenor, which is present in six telecom circles in the country, can select the video packs starting from Rs. 2 to Rs. 28 with validity ranging from one day to 28 days.

The music packs start from Rs. 41 and come with a validity of 28 days, the statement added.

Last month, Telenor India said it has issued 1.5 million free life insurance policies in October under a life cover scheme for which over 5 million customers have registered themselves.

The company in September announced a free life insurance scheme for its customers in partnership with Shriram Life Insurance and MicroEnsure.

“We have combined technology with financial security to market a product through our distribution channels. Over 5 million customers have opted for life insurance and we have issued life insurance policy to 1.5 million in October,” Telenor India Chief Marketing Officer Upanga Dutta told PTI.

Don’t Want to Be Known as ‘Call Drop Minister’, Prasad Tells Telcos

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Asserting that he does not want to be known as ‘call drop minister’, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad Tuesday said operators must reinforce their networks to improve quality of services.

He also said the implementation was being monitored of the investment commitments made by telecom operators for upgrading networks, as he reminded Bharti Airtel about Rs. 80,000 croresinvestment announced by the company in July.

Taking a jibe at telecom operators, the minister said it took a lot of nudging on his part to let them publicly accept that quality of services was not up to the mark and needs improvement.

“I regret to say very frankly it took a lot of nudging on my part to all of you to publicly acknowledge that there is need for improvement… I am sorry, I don’t want to be known as call drop minister, sorry, I am very clear,” Prasad said during an Ericsson event on broadband.

The issue of call drop has been prevailing over the last few months. The services though are now showing some signs of improvement.

The minister said on the policy front, he has took most of the decisions that were pending for the last many years like spectrum trading and sharing guidelines, identification of Defence band etc.

“I have done my duty, the operators must do theirs and I am saying very firmly with full sense of responsibility… while I acknowledge your role … deserve my compliments and good wishes for the work you have done but you need to realign to consumers satisfaction as well,” he added.

He further said government is accountable to peoples’ convenience and the operators must rise to the occasion to reinforce their networks and invest where the infrastructure is lacking.

Referring to Bharti Enterprises Chairman Sunil Mittal, Prasad said, “I am complimenting you for Rs. 60,000 crores, they must be used very quiclky… and I would hold you for your larger commitment that you said on July in the presence of Prime Minister (at Digital India event) that you will invest Rs. 80,000 crores. I hope you remember that.” Mittal mentioned about Airtel’s commitment to invest Rs. 60,000 crores on capital expenditure over the next three years while accepting that quality of services need further improvement.

Vodafone Moves Delhi High Court Against Trai’s Interconnect Regulations

Telecom major Vodafone Mobile Service Ltd and its group companies Friday moved the Delhi High Court challenging Trai’s Telecommunication Interconnect Usage Charges Regulations, 2015 by which it has fixed termination charges for wireline to wireless as zero paise and wireless to wireless to Rs. 0.14 per minute.

Interconnection Usage Charges (IUC) or termination charges are payable by one telco, whose subscriber makes a call, to another whose subscriber receives the call. The charge is payable by the first for using the second’s network.

A bench, comprising Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw, declined to give any interim relief to the telecom major saying Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has to be heard and also because the regulations came in February, 2015.

The bench asked Trai to file its reply in four weeks and posted the matter for further hearing on January 19, 2016.

During the brief hearing, senior advocate K Viswanathan, appearing for Vodafone, said the regulations are illegal, bad in fact and in law, arbitrary and in gross violation of the principles of natural justice, beyond the functions of Trai.

He said the February 23, 2015 regulations – Mobile Termination Charges (MTC) and Fixed Termination Charges (FTC) under IUC Regulation – were “ultra vires Trai Act and were contrary to the object and purpose of its provisions to the extent that it arbitrarily and in a non-transparent manner fixes the termination charges”.

Viswanathan said that it is clear that the fixation of terms of interconnectivity which includes the termination charge by Trai cannot be zero where costs are incurred by the terminating operator and therefore, the regulations fixing the charge as zero is ultra vires the provisions of Trai Act.

He said that Trai itself has stated in its 2001 Regulations that the interconnection charges shall be fixed on cost basis to provide recompense to the operators for work done for termination of calls on their network.

He further submitted that Trai, while agreeing that costs are incurred for terminating a call, has grossly erred and acted in an illegal manner and contrary to the provisions while fixing the termination charges for wireline to wireless as zero and wireless to wireless from Rs 0.20 per minute To Rs. 0.14 per minute.

Trai Issues Consultation Paper for Spectrum Auction

Telecom regulator Trai Thursday issued consultation paper for valuation and reserve price ofspectrum in 7 bands including 700, 900 and 2100 megahertz for the next round of auctions.

The regulator has sought stakeholders comments on issues like quantum of spectrum to be auctioned, spectrum block size, spectrum cap, roll-out obligations and methods to be used for valuation and estimation of reserve price of spectrum.

Clarifying its position over reported delay in the paper, and hence the auctions, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India said the information sent by the Department of Telecom on July 9 was not sufficient.

Trai said on July 24, it had sought the information which was critical in nature for preparation of the consultation paper. The auctions are expected to be held within this fiscal.

“DoT provided certain information through their letter dated October 16. This information in also not complete. Therefore, another letter was sent to DoT on November 16… however, to save time, the Authority has decided to issue the consultation paper based on available information,” Trai said.

Trai said on July 9, DoT communicated that the government is planning for auction of right to use of spectrum in 700 Mhz, 800 Mhz, 900 Mhz, 1800 Mhz, 2100 Mhz, 2300 Mhz and 2500 Mhz in the forthcoming auction.

The regulator said DoT also referred to its earlier reference dated October 16, 2014 and requested it to expedite the recommendations on applicable reserve price 2300 Mhz and 2500 Mhz bands for all service areas.

“Further, DoT vide its letter dated November 6, 2015, has sought the recommendations of the Authority on liberalisation of administratively alloted spectrum in 900 Mhz band,” Trai said.

Stakeholders can send their written comments by December 21 and counter-comments by December 28. “Stakeholders are requested to send their comments by due dates as there will be no extension of timelines,” Trai said.