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Bharti Airtel-Reliance Jio fight enters next phase - 03 Sept 2019

Started by Sudhakar, Sep 11, 2019, 09:39 AM

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Sudhakar

Bharti Airtel-Reliance Jio fight enters next phase - 03 Sept 2019

New Delhi: Bharti Airtel launched a digital entertainment services platform christened Airtel Xstream, three days before Reliance Jio Infocomm's home broadband is set to go live, taking the rivalry between the two telecom operators to the next stage.

The Sunil Mittal-led telco's platform will allow customers to access diverse digital content on a screen of their choice - television, PC or smartphone - with a unified user interface.

The content on Airtel Xstream will include live TV, videos, music, news and sports that can be viewed using an OTT (over the top) smart stick, an internet-enabled set-top box and handheld devices.

Airtel's offering is aimed at combatting Jio's imminent home broadband blitz that analysts said could trigger another disruption, primarily in the urban digital TV and home broadband market.

The telco unveiled two Android-based connected devices on Monday - an Xstream OTT stick and an Xstream 4K hybrid box - priced at Rs 3,999 each, that will make any TV a smart device. The hybrid box comes with a complimentary 1-year subscription worth Rs 999 to all Xstream content in addition to a month's subscription to an HD direct to-home digital TV services pack.

"Airtel Xstream is India's first converged entertainment platform that will cater to needs of a new generation of consumers looking for seamless and converged entertainment across multiple screens at home and on-the-go," Adarsh Nair, chief product officer at Bharti Airtel, said in a statement.

ET reported in its August 22 edition that Airtel would bundle a customised Android-based set-top box to deliver digital entertainment and fast broadband services in September.

Airtel's entertainment service platform "is a strong counter-offer ahead of JioFiber's launch," signalling the telecom market is rapidly moving towards quad-play, bundling a mix of mobile, digital TV, fast broadband and landline services, said Rohan Dhamija, a partner at Analysys Mason.

However, he was sceptical about the "actual impact and utility" of Airtel's hardware because there are already "several hardware options in the market from the likes of Google and Amazon that can transform an ordinary TV into a smart one, coupled with apps in circulation from TataSky and Hotstar that customers can easily download to enjoy a television-like experience on their smartphone screens."

An Airtel user of Netflix or Amazon Prime won't be able to transfer the balance to the stick or the hybrid box. So, experts said this is "effectively over and above the fixed costs."

Mukesh Ambani-led Jio's home broadband plans - which is likely to also provide access to apps such as Jio Cinema, Jio TV, Jio Cinema and music, besides gaming, video calling and virtual reality via its set-top box - will be priced between Rs 700 and Rs 10,000 a month.

Brokerage Jefferies said the "key for JioFiber will be the pricing," once the plans are commercially rolled out.

Analysts said Jio's promise of a free HD or 4K LED smart television along with a 4K set-top box to those opting for its yearly home broadband packs could be the game-changer and induce customer churn at urban-focussed TV distributors such as TataSky, Airtel Digital TV and Siti, especially with national cable TV players Hathway and Den Networks already in the Reliance fold.

"Competition is busy doing what they are doing, but we are obsessed with our customers," Airtel's Nair told ET.

Latest regulatory data pegs the national DTH user base at about 73 million, with Dish TV commanding a 40% market share, followed by Tata Sky (25%), Airtel Digital TV (22%) and Sun Direct (12%). Airtel is said to have been in talks to acquire Dish TV to beef up its DTH play.

Jefferies said average revenue per user (ARPU) for broadband ranges from Rs 400 to Rs 1,000 a month, with 100 GB plans generating Rs 600 to Rs 1,000. Additionally, TV ARPUs are about Rs 200.

Airtel's home services ARPU grew 1.2% sequentially to Rs 825 in the quarter ended June, while its digital TV services ARPU fell almost 33% sequentially to Rs 157 in the first quarter.

Airtel executives said that with the OTT stick, an 'Airtel Thanks' customer gains automatic access to digital content. Others need to buy a Rs 999 subscription to access such content, beyond the first 30-day free offer. Airtel Thanks is a rewards programme for select customers.

In the case of DTH, subscription to content is automatic and existing Airtel digital TV customers can upgrade to Airtel Xstream box by paying a flat Rs 2,249.

Source : https://telecom.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/airtel-jio-fight-enters-next-phase/70953826

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