Love listening to music or watching movies on the go? Then this is the right time to be in India. The country, which has over 220 million smartphones users, became the second biggest smartphone markets surpassing the US market (as per Counterpoint Research), last year. As a result, we find telecom players up in arms with each other.
The market, which in recent times saw mergers between Vodafone India and Idea Cellular; and Reliance Communications and Aircel, has witnessed a sharp increase in data offers. To keep Reliance Jio at bay, which entered the market last year with cheap data and free voice services, many have been forced to take severe steps.
From slashing prices to offering free data, telecos are going all out to keep customers from moving away. Bharti Airtel has not only launched a 4G data pack that offers free data for 90 days, but in its latest campaign claims that it offers the fastest mobile network as certified by Ookla (the broadband testing and web-based network diagnostic app). Says an Airtel spokesperson, “Ookla’s findings are based on an analysis of millions of internet speed tests logged on ‘modern devices’ by Indian customers, using its speed test app. The results include all mobile tests, regardless of connection technology.”
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Vodafone has offered 3GB per month free for three months after reaching the 200 million customers mark. In its campaign, it highlights that its 4G network is built to give a fast and consistent internet experience. Not to mention, as the deadline for Reliance’s Jio Prime has been extended till April 15, its customers have been given the option of availing 28GB of 4G data with the `303 prepaid recharge pack.
With everyone claiming the fastest and most convenient data delivery, whose shout out is the most authentic? The Mob co-founder Chraneeta Mann says, “Someone is quoting Ookla, another is quoting TRAI speed tests. I guess everyone is trying really hard to back their statements with some sort of validation, even if the claims might differ drastically from one to the other.”
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Vodafone has launched a 360 degree campaign for its Vodafone SuperNet 4G, whose claims too are backed by ‘global expertise’. “Our consumer immersion and insights indicate that customers in India today are using mobile internet for multiple data-heavy applications like live streaming, movie downloads, video calls, etc. Vodafone has invested substantial resources to add infrastructure and technology to build Vodafone SuperNet 4G — to provide a fast and consistent mobile internet experience for our customers,” says Siddharth Banerjee, EVP — marketing, Vodafone India while adding, “In this latest campaign, we are confidently demonstrating the power of our network for popular data-heavy use cases of mobile internet.”
Gasoline’s founder and CCO Anil Kakar believes that in the clutter of ‘me too’ advertising, Vodafone comes across as a leader. “Among all the three players, Vodafone is the only one adopting a higher ground by harping on consumer benefits of faster internet, while Airtel and Jio’s advertising seems reactive/comparative.”
Mann adds that Airtel’s case might be weak. “We have been seeing the Airtel Girl for a while now, so that does tend to reduce the attention grabbing appeal of the ad,” she opines. While the campaigns might be highlighting their pros, there are many who believe that the consumer is after all, no fool and takes claims she sees in advertising rather sceptically. The campaigns leave the consumer confused at worst and amused at best. “Data speed claims by telecom companies have particularly become a blind spot for consumers. Most of us are unhappy with our network, at some point or the other. So the claims seem unreal,” says Amit Akali, founder and CCO, What’s Your Problem, and CCO at Medulla Communications.
Akali believes that when it comes to data wars, word of mouth is taken more seriously. And thanks to social media, word of mouth can spread quickly too. “When Jio announced its 4G network, people started reading about good experiences from their friends,” he says. “People even asked for opinions on social media and since the reviews were good, many did opt for a second data number. It literally didn’t cost them anything.” Well, only time will tell who wins these data wars but for now, the consumer is surely being spoilt for choice.