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Aug-16: ACT largest private wireline broadband player in South India?

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BENGALURU: The wireline broadband internet (broadband) subscriber base in the country grew by 7.03 percent (by 11.6 lakh or 1.6 million) in the period between 31 December 2015 (Dec-15) or 1 January 2016 until 31 August 2016 (Aug-16), from 165.1 lakh to 176.7 lakh. In calendar year 2015, the growth rate had been higher at 7.77 percent. Telecom subscription data released by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for Aug-16 reveals that the top five players’ growth was just 4 lakh new subscribers or 2.84 percent growth in the current calendar year until Aug-16 (CY-16).

Leading the growth were private wired broadband players Bharti Airtel (Airtel) and regional player Atria Convergence Technologies Pvt Ltd (ACT) with additions of 2.4 lakh and 2.3 lakh subscriber additions respectively in CY-16 until Aug-16.Airtel’s wired broadband subscriber base grew 14.37 percent, while ACT’s base grew by 26.74 percent during the same period (CY-16 until Aug-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 added 2.5 lakh subscribers and had grown at a blazing 40.98 percent. Hence, by the end of 2016, the two players should add a lot more subscribers than they did in CY-15.

While Airtel is a national level player, ACT is a regional player with operations in South India, hence probably making ACT the largest private wireline broadband player in South India. ACT has replaced the public sector Mahanagar Telecom Nigam Limited (MTNL) at third place, pushing the latter to fourth spot in Aug-16 in terms of number of subscribers.

Another private player among the top five – You Broadband (You BB) has added 60,000 subscribers (11.76 percent growth) in the current year until Aug-16. The two public sector players have lost subscribers during the same period and hence dampened the subscriber growth rate among the top five wired broadband internet players.

Among the 5 top wireline broadband internet players in India, the public sector telecom player Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) leads by far with 98.4 lakh total number of wireline broadband subscribers as on Aug-16. However, BSNL has seen its broadband subscriber base shrink by 80,000 in CY-16 until Aug-16. The largest private sector wireline broadband internet services player Airtel had 19.1 lakh subscribers as on 31 August 2016, ACT with 10.9 lakh subscribers was next and was followed by another public sector player – Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) with 10.7 lakh subscribers. You Broadband (You BB) with 5.6 lakh subscribers was the fifth. MTNL has also seen a reduction of 50,000 subscribers in CY-16. Please refer to Fig 1 below for wireline subscriber data in CY-16 until Aug-16.

As mentioned above, the top five players have had a slower rate of growth as compared to the all India growth in CY-16 until Aug-16. The share of the top five players among all India wired broadband subscriber addition has fallen in CY-16 from 85.28 percent as on 1 January 2016 to 81.95 percent as on 31 August 2016. The share of these players was 88.45 percent as on 1 January 2015.

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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 through organic as well as acquisition growth, 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.

Month-on-month (m-o-m), the all India wired broadband subscriber base witnessed the second highest growth in CY-16 until Aug-16 at 1.03 percent. The top 5 players had a growth of 0.28 percent during the same period. Please refer to figure 2 below.

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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 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 CommunicationsLimited respectively whose results are available in the public domain have been showing steady growth in their broadband segment over the past few quarters.

Among the MSOs’ (besides ACT), Hathway has shown the highest subscriber additions in the year. Its consolidated broadband subscription revenue as per IND AS for the quarter ended 31 September 2016 (Q2-17) at Rs 120.3 crore (37.5 percent of Total Income from Operations or TIO) was higher than its consolidated CATV subscription revenue of Rs110.4 crore (34.4 percent of TIO). Its consolidated broadband revenue in Q2-17 quarter as per IND AS increased 67 percent y-o-y.

Hathway’sconsolidated broadband subscriber base increased to 8 lakh in Q2-17 from 7 lakh in the immediate trailing quarter (Q1-17). Broadband ARPU in the current quarter increased to Rs 643 from Rs 616 in the corresponding quarter of the previous year, but declined from Rs 670 in the immediate trailing quarter.

Siti Networks broadband revenue increased 167.7 percent y-o-y (more than doubled) to Rs 24.9 crore (8.6 percent of TIO) in Q2-17 from Rs 9.3 crore (4 percent of TIO) in Q2-16.Siti has added about 28,000 subscribers in Q2-17 taking its subscriber base to 195,000 from 167,000 subscribers in Q1-17. It had a broadband subscriber base of 91,450 in Q2-16.

Overall broadband subscriber numbers for August 2016 including wireless and mobile

Overall, as per the reports received by TRAI from the service providers, the number ofbroadband subscribers (including wireless, mobile, dongles) grew 4.75million  or 47.5 lakh to 17.171 million (17.171 crore) in Aug-16 from 166.96 million (16.696 crore) inJul-16. Wireless broadband subscriber numbers that use mobiles and dongles for internet access have increased m-o-m by 3.01 percent in Aug-16 to 153.45 million (15.345 crore) from 148.93 million (14.893 crore) in Jul-16. Fixed wireless subscribers that access the internet through Wi-Fi, Wi-Max, Point-to-point radio and VSAT have increased 8.65 percent in Aug-16 to to0.59 million (5.4 lkh) from 0.54 million in Jul-16.

The top five service providers constituted 85.16 percent (84.83 percent in Jul-16)market share of the totalbroadband subscribers at the end of Aug-16. These service providerswere Bharti Airtel (45.35 million or 4.535 crore), Vodafone (35.01 million or 3.501 crore), Idea Cellular(29.58 million 2.958 crore), BSNL (21.04 million 2.104 crore) and Reliance Communications Group (15.24 million 1.524 crore).

Decline in telephone subscribers in August 2016

It must however be noted that the total wireless subscriber basedeclined from 1,034.23 million (103.423 crore) at the endof Jul-16 to 1,028.88 million (102.888 crore) at the end ofAug-16, thereby registering a monthlydecline rate of 0.52 percent. Wireless subscription in urban areas declinedfrom 589.61 million (58.961 crore) at the end of Jul-16to 585.89 million (58.589 crore) at the end of Aug-16,and wireless subscription in rural areasdeclined from 444.63 million  (44.463 crore) to 442.99million (44.299 crore) during the same period. Themonthly decline rates of urban and ruralwireless subscription were 0.63 percent and0.37 percent respectively.

The overall wireless tele-density in Indiadeclined from 81.11 at the end of Jul-16to 80.62 at the end of Aug-16. The urban wireless tele-density declinedfrom 148.00 at the end of Jul-16 to146.84 at the end of Aug-16, and rural wireless tele-density also declined from 50.72 to 50.50 during the same period.The share of urban and rural wirelesssubscribers in total number of wirelesssubscribers was 56.94 percent and 43.06 percent respectively at the end of Aug-16.

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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