Jio juggernaut rolls on, wired segment wobbles

BENGALURU: In November 2016, the MukeshAmbani run ‘world’s biggest startup’ – Reliance Jio or simply Jio, became the largest private broadband internet services provider (ISP) in the country as per data revealed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for month of November 2016 (Nov-16) with 5.223 crore subscribers. Jio’s subscriber base is wireless. Over the next 31 days until the end of calendar year 2016 (CY-16) and the month December 2016 (Dec-16), Jio juggernaut added another 1.993 crore subscribers to reach a base of 7.216 crore subscribers.In the press release announcing Reliance Industries numbers for the quarter ended 31 December 2016 (Q3-17), Ambani said, “I delighted by our country’s eagerness to adopt to a digital life as witnessed by the recordbreakinglaunch of Jio. Its comprehensive ecosystem has enabled millions of Indians to lead a richerlife through its offerings.”

Jio is now far ahead of the number two player Bharti Airtel Limited (Airtel) which saw further erosion of its wireless subscriber base to 4.153 crore from 4.190 crore in Nov-16. Among the other three players in the top five private wireless ISP’s list, Idea Cellular saw its subscriber decline in Dec-16 to 2.704 crore from 2.84 crore in Nov-16. Vodafone, the third largest wireless ISP saw a small growth in its subscriber base in Dec-16 to 3.501 crore from 3.487 crore in Nov-16, while Reliance Communications reported a steady 1.608 crore subscribers in both Nov-16 and Dec-16. The government run Bharat Sanchar Limited (BSNL), which is actually the fourth largest wireless ISP in terms of subscribers saw its base erode to 2.036 crore in Dec-16 from 2.039 crore.The top five service providers constituted 83.93 percent market share of the totalbroadband subscribers at the end of Dec-16.

Wireline Broadband Internet

Besides wireless broadband, a number of players also offer wired or wireline broadband services. Among the wireline ISP’s BSNL is the biggest player by far with 99.5 lakh subscribers. BSNL’s combined wireless and wireline subscribers is 3.301 crore, which would make it the third largest ISP in terms of subscribers. The second largest wireline ISP in India is Airtel which closed 2016 with 20.4 lakh wireline subscribers, after adding just 10,000 subscribers to its wireline internet subscriber base. Airtel’s combined wireless and wireline subscriber base was 4.357 crore as on 31 December 2016. The third largest wireline broadband internet services provider was regional private player ACT Broadband lost 20,000 subscribers in Dec-16 to reach a subscriber base of 11.2 lakh. The government run Mahanagar Sanchar Nigam Limited (MTNL) also lost 10,000 subscribers in Dec-16 to a lowered subscriber base of 10.4 lakh. The fifth player in the list of top five wireline broadband internet service providers in the country is another regional player – You Broadband or You BB. There was no change in the minnow’s subscriber base of 6 lakh in Dec-16 vis-à-vis Nov-16.

Overall, the internet subscriber base in the country grew 8.89 percent (by 1.882 crore) month-on-month (m-o-m) to 23.609 crore in Dec-16 with from 21.827 crore Nov-16. Wireline broadband subscriber base grew 0.48 percent (by 80,000) m-o-m to 1.814 crore in Dec-16 from 1.806 crore in Nov-16 and grew by 16.3 lakh from 1.651 crore as on 31 December 2016 or 1 January 2016. Please refer to figure A below.

Leading the growth in subscriber additions in CY-16 (Jan-16 until Dec-16)were private wired broadband players Bharti Airtel , and regional player ACT  with additions of 3.7 lakh and 2.6 lakh subscriber additions respectively in CY-16. Airtel’s wired broadband subscriber base grew 22.16 percent, while ACT’s base grew by 30.23 percent during the same period (CY-16 until Dec-16). In CY-15 (1 January 2015 to 31 December 2015), Airtel had added 2.6 lakh wired broadband subscribers and grown by 18.44 percent, while ACT had added 2.5 lakh subscribers and had grown at a blazing 40.98 percent. By Sep-16, Airtel had already exceeded the number of subscribers it had added in CY-15, while ACT had crossed its CY-15 performance in Oct-16.


Figure B below indicates the m-o-m subscriber growth in CY-16. As is obvious, though the wireline subscriber base grew 0.48 percent, the combined subscriber base of the top five wireline ISP’s shrank by 0.14 percent (reduced by 20,000) in Dec-16 as compared to Nov-16.

The top five players have had a slower rate of growth as compared to the all India growth in CY-16 until Dec-16. The share of the top five players among all India wired broadband subscriber additions has fallen in CY-16 until Dec-16 from 85.28 percent as on 1 January 2016 to 81.31 percent as on 31 December 2016. The share of these players was 88.45 percent as on 1 January 2015.


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 and triple 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 Networks Limited, Den Networks Limited , Ortel Communications Limited respectivelywhose results are available in the public domain have been showing steady growth in their broadband segment over the past few quarters.

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

Notes:(1) The unit of currency in this report is the Indian rupee - Rs (also conventionally represented by INR).The Indian numbering system or the Vedic numbering system has been used to denote money values. The basic conversion to the international norm would be:

(a) 100,00,000 = 100 lakh = 10,000,000 = 10 million = 1 crore.

(b) 10,000 lakh = 100 crore = 1 arab = 1 billion.

(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 0.51 million (5.1 lakh) subscribers for You BB for Dec-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) 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.

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