April-2016: Poor growth in wired broadband subscribers

BENGALURU: Historically April seems to be a poor month in terms of wired broadband subscriber additions, if one were to go by the numbers reported by The Telecom regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).  For the month of April ended 30 April 2016 (Apr-16), TRAI has reported addition of just 70,000 subscribers (0.39 percent growth over Mar-16). TRAI data for Apr-16 shows 170.5 lakh wired broadband subscribers and 169.8 lakh for Mar-16. This growth is however much better than the numbers reported by TRAI for Apr-15, which actually saw a decline in wired broadband subscribers by 10,000 from 136.4 lakh in Mar-15 to 136.3 lakh.

As per TRAI data, the top five players in India in the wireline broadband internet space in pecking order are the public sector Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), Bharti Airtel Limited (Airtel), public sector Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL), Atria Convergence Technologies Private Limited (ACT, ACT Broadband) and You Broadband (You BB). Among these 5, only BSNL and Airtel could be termed as national players at present. BSNL, Airtel and MTNL also provide wireline telephony voice and data and mobile services while Airtel also has a direct to home (DTH) segment. ACT started off as an MSO with operations concentrated in a few major cities and towns located mainly in South India. It started internet services (ACT Broadband) a little later and has grown its broadband internet subscriber base over time, to the extent that it is quite likely the biggest private wireline broadband player in South India. You BB offers broadband operations in a few cities in Maharashtra, Gujarat the NCR region Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

Note:(1) 100,00,000 = 100 Lakh = 10 million = 1 crore

(2) TRAI reports indicate data in millions of numbers up to 2 decimal places. Hence it is assumed in this report that a figure of 0.47 million (4.7 lakh) subscribers for You BB for July-2015 would be granular to the nearest 10,000. While percentages have been mentioned up to two decimal places, the accuracy may vary, depending upon the exact number.

(3) Industry sources say that TRAI numbers in the case of ACT for May-2015 are incorrect at 0.66 million and the correct number would be 0.693 million. This paper considers the number as 6.93 lakh or 0.693 million.

(4) MSOs’ have a number of subsidiaries and alliances, hence broadband numbers are split as applicable. The consolidated subscription numbers of these entities could be larger. Hathway is a case in point.

So how much did the top 5 wired broadband players add to the growth of 70,000 subscribers in Apr-15? Just 10,000- because the net subscriber additions by the three private players of 50,000 was eroded by the loss of 40,000 wireline broadband subscribers (30,000 by BSNL and 10,000 by MTNL) by the two public sector service providers. Please refer to Fig 1 below.

Among the top 5 players, ACT has seen the largest wireline broadband subscriber growth until Apr-16 in calendar year 2016 with 1 lakh additions followed by Airtel with 90,000. You BB stood third with 30,000 wireline broadband subscriber additions in 2016 until Apr-16. The public sector players have lost wired broadband subscribers until Apr-16 in 2016 – BSNL has seen subscribers decline by 10,000 while MTNL has lost 20,000 subscribers. Overall, the top 5 wired broadband players have added 1.9 lakh subscribers between 31 January 2016 and 30 April 2016 as opposed to the overall growth of 5.4 lakh subscribers in the country during the same period. Please refer to Fig 2 below:

In Mar-16, the largest ever number of wired broadband subscribers were added – in absolute numbers as well as in month-over-month (m-o-m) percentage terms.  2.3 lakh wired broadband subscribers were added, with m-o-m growth of 1.37 percent in Mar-16. The combined subscription numbers of the top 5 wired broadband players also had the largest ever subscriber additions in terms of absolute numbers at 1 lakh and at 0.71 percent in terms of m-o-m growth

At the same time, the subscriber numbers share of the top five wired broadband players in the country has reduced from 87.62 percent in Mar-15 to 83.70 percent as on Apr-16. During the same period the all India wireline internet subscriber base has grown 9.86 per cent from 155.2 lakh to 170.5 lakh. The combined numbers of the top five players have increased by less than half of that in percentage terms - by 4.62 per cent from 136.4 lakh to 142.7 lakh. The top five players have added 6.3 lakh subscribers during these 14 months, with ACT and Bharti Airtel contributing a major chunk to the growth.

Other wireline broadband players in India

MSOs’ in India have started providing internet services on the back of their television cable networks using Docsis technology. In general, they have started reporting double digit YoY increase in internet subscribers and revenue. The television cable players see broadband services improving their Average Revenue per User (ARPU) numbers. Three of the major MSOs and a regional MSO - Hathway, Siti Cable, Den Networks, Ortel Communications respectively whose results are available in the public domain have been showing steady growth in their broadband segment over the past few quarters. All the four have been reporting growth in average revenue per user (ARPU).

Overall broadband subscriber numbers for April 2016 including wireless and mobile

Overall, as per the reports received by TRAI from the service providers, the number of broadband subscribers (including wireless, mobile) increased from 149.75 million (14.975 crore) at the end of Mar-16 to 151.09 million (15.109 crore) at the end of Apr-16 with a monthly growth rate of 0.89 percent. The top five service providers constituted 83.86 percent market share of the total broadband subscribers at the end of Apr-16. These service providers were Airtel (39.13 million or 3.913 crore), Vodafone (28.11 million or 2.811 crore), Idea Cellular

(23.23 million or 2.323 crore), BSNL (20.48 million 2.048 crore) and Reliance Communications Group (15.74 million or 1.574 crore).TRAI’s definition of broadband is internet download speeds greater than or equal to 512 Kpbs.

Also read:

ACT leads in wired broadband subscriber additions in 2016



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