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Jul-16: Airtel takes lead in wireline broadband subs additions in CY-16

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BENGALURU: There’s action in the broadband space – both wireless and wired. Indian telecom major and DTH player Bharti Airtel Limited (Airtel) has been on a net add spree in July 2016, overaking MSO and wireline broadband services player Atria Convergence Technologies Pvt Ltd (ACT) in wireline subscriber additions in the  calendar year 2016 (CY-16) up to now. This is according to telecom subscription data released by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for the period ended 31 July 2016 (July-16).

The data, released on 7 October 2016, reveals that Airtel had added 2.1 lakh net broadband wireline subscribers as compared to 1.9 lakh net subscribers added by ACT since 31 December 2015 (Dec-15, or 1 January 2016). Until Jun-16, ACT lead in net subscriber additions in CY-16.

Among the five top wireline broadband internet players in India, the public sector telecom player Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) lead by far with 98.6 lakh total number of wireline broadband subscribers. However, BSNL has seen its broadband subscriber base shrink by 60,000 in CY-16.

The largest private sector wireline broadband internet services player Airtel had 18.8 lakh subscribers as on 31 July 2016, followed by another public sector player, Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL), with 10.8 lakh subscribers. Not far behind was ACT with 10.5 lakh subscribers, followed by You Broadband (You BB) with 5.6 lakh subscribers. MTNL has also seen a reduction of 40,000 subscribers in CY-16, while You BB has seen its wireline broadband subscriber base increase by 60,000 during the same period. Please refer to Fig 1 below for wireline subscriber data in CY-16.

Among these top five, 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 thorough organic growth as well as through acquisitions 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.

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In CY-16, the all-India wireline subscriber base has increased by 9.8 lakh, with the top five players contributing 3.6 lakh subscribers or a little more than a third at 36.73 percent. The subscriber share of the top five wireline broadband internet players has declined from 85.28 percent (142.8 lakh) as on Dec-15 to 82.56 percent (144.4 lakh) as on Jul-16. Please refer to Fig 2 for the month-on-month change in wired broadband internet subscribers during CY-16.

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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 year-over-year (y-o-y) 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 and Ortel Communications, respectively whose financial results are available in the public, domain have been showing steady growth in their broadband segment over the past few quarters.

Overall broadband subscriber numbers for July 2016

Overall, as per the data received by TRAI from the service providers, the number of broadband subscribers (including wireless, mobile, dongles) remained stagnant at159.80 million (15.980 crore)  at the end of both Jun-16 and Jul-16.

Wireless broadband subscriber numbers that use mobiles and dongles for internet access have increased month-on-month by 4.92 per cent to 148.93 million (14.893 crore) in July-16 from 141.94 million (14.194 crore) in June-16. Fixed wireless subscribers that access the internet through Wi-Fi, Wi-Max, point-to-point radio and VSAT have declined 1.06 percent in July-16 to to 0.54 million (5.4 lakh) from 0.55 million (5.5 lakh) June-16.

The top five service providers constituted 84.83 percent market share of the total broadband subscribers at the end of July-16. These service providers were Bharti Airtel (44.41 million or 4.441 crore), Vodafone (33.6 million or 3.36 crore), Idea Cellular (28.19 million 2.819 crore), BSNL (20.92 million 2.092 crore) and Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Communications (14.74 million 1.474 crore).

Decline in telephone subscribers in July 2016

It must, however, be noted that the number of telephone subscribers in India declined from 1,059.86 million (105.986 crore) at the end of June-16 to 1,058.85 million (105.885 crore) at the end of July-16, thereby showing a monthly decline rate of 0.10 percent.

The urban subscription increased from 609.45 million (60.945 crore) at the end of June-16 to 610.22 million (61.022 crore) at the end of July-16 whereas the rural subscription declined from 450.41 million (45.041 crore) to 448.63 million (44.863 crore) during the same period.

The monthly growth rates of urban and rural subscription were 0.13 percent and -0.40 per cent, respectively during the month of July-16.

The overall tele-density in India declined from 83.20 at the end of June- 16 to 83.04 at the end of Jul-16. The urban tele-density declined from 153.22 at the end of June-16 to 153.18 at the end of July-16, and the rural tele-density also declined from 51.41 during the same period. The share of urban subscribers and rural subscribers in total number of telephone subscribers at the end of July-16 was 57.63 per cent and 42.37 per cent, respectively.

TRAI’s definition of broadband is internet download speeds greater than or equal to 512 Kpbs.

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