Battle for 4G: Bharti Airtel ups the ante

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New Delhi | Updated: August 6, 2015 9:50:35 PM

Four years after the launch of 3G services in the country, the battle for the data consuming Indian 4G consumer has begun with a bang.

airtelFour years after the launch of 3G services in the country, the battle for the data consuming Indian 4G consumer has begun with a bang. (Reuters)

Four years after the launch of 3G services in the country, the battle for the data consuming Indian 4G consumer has begun with a bang. Bharti Airtel launched 4G services in 296 towns across the country months before the proposed December launch of 4G services by Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Jio.

This is not the first time that Mittal and Ambani have sparred in telecom. In the early 2000s, the two battled it out over limited mobile services. Mukesh Ambani exited telecom after an agreement with younger brother Anil Ambani over the demerger of the family business.

On getting back into telecom after five years, the stakes are definitely much higher for both.

While the battle last time round was for offering seriously cheap voice services, this time it will be to capture the wallet of the high spending smartphone user.

Airtel-4G

Bharti Airtel has upped the ante with a range of Infinity Plans that look to reduce the pressure on voice services which accounted for 75% of its revenues during Q1 FY’16. Its Rs 999 plan―for prepaid and postpaid users―offers 3GB of download with free Airtel-to-Airtel calling; unlimited music and five movies a month on the Eros Now platform.

The Rs 1,999 plan for postpaid and Rs 2,249 (prepaid) is aimed at the high end user who gets 7GB of data download, free unlimited voice calling (including domestic long-distance), unlimited music and unlimited movies on the Eros Now/Hooq platforms. Any usage over the 7GB limit would be at 25 paise/MB.

That should help Bharti retain its high ARPU users and get such users to port from other networks. The tie-up with Flipkart to offer devices from Samsung, Lenovo, Xiaomi, Motorola, Asus and Huawei bundled with the 4G SIM is also a smart move in competitive times.

It remains to be seen how Reliance Jio reacts, since Bharti Airtel has taken the sting out of the tail by reducing its dependence on voice revenues.

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