Airtel 4G LTE user base reaches around 28,000 in second quarter

Bharti Airtel 4G LTE user base in India has reached around 28,000 till the second quarter of 2013. It will compete with Reliance Jio Infocomm next year to retain its dominant position.

The country’s largest telecom operator kicked off 4G services in April 2012. This is a poor achievement for a company like Airtel.

Lack of strong eco-system and availability of cost effective 4G phones are disturbing the 4G launch plans of both Mukesh Ambani-promoted Reliance Jio Infocomm and Maxis-owned Aircel.

Between January 2012 and June 2013, total 4G LTE data card imports into India were around 28,000. In the second quarter of 2013, 4G LTE data card imports picked up to 5,800.

Billionaire Sunil Mittal-promoted Bharti Airtel is the only Indian telecom service provider to kick off 4G services in the country. Most of its 4G services are offered through USB dongles. Huawei’s 4G smartphone available via Airtel TD-LTE network did not take off as the 4G service is available in only 4 towns – Kolkata, Bangalore, Pune and Chandigarh — in India.

When contacted, Bharti Airtel spokesperson declined to comment on the 4G user base of the company.

Faisal Kawoosa, lead analyst, CMR Telecoms Practice, recently, told TelecomLead.com’s Baburajan K that achieving 28,000 LTE users in 4-5 major towns is a big achievement for Airtel. In the second quarter of CY 2013, 4G data card shipments picked up reflecting the growth potential and aggressive campaigns of the telecom operator.

Infonetics Research on Wednesday said FDD-LTE smartphones are catching up with W-CDMA 3G. It is interesting to note that these are not TD-LTE smartphones. The research report says FDD-LTE devices are now the second largest smartphone segment and are expected to overtake W-CDMA in just a few years.

According to 4G Americas, a global telecom industry body, LTE mobile broadband commercial deployments have grown to 200 commercial deployments as of August 22, 2013 from 2 commercial deployments in 2009, 16 in 2010, 51 in 2011, 139 in 2012. There are 250 commercial LTE networks anticipated by the end of this year and more than 440 deployments in the coming years. Indian 4G market does not figure in any of the latest 4G reports.

Airtel 4G user base

Strategy Analytics on Thursday said many operators are still struggling to develop better strategies to monetize their new network investments.

Adjusting pricing strategies to fit the IP-centric world where voice and text revenues are declining and to create consumer-centric service packaging that adds value and generates revenue is essential for monetizing LTE.

“Mobile operators must adjust their pricing strategies in an IP-centric world where voice and text revenues are declining. They must package consumer-centric services that add value and generate revenue to monetize LTE,” said Susan Welsh de Grimaldo, director, Wireless Operators & Networks.

LG U+ in South Korea has shown that LTE can be an effective tool for a challenger to gain market share and increase ARPU even in a competitive LTE environment. Deploying LTE alone does not guarantee revenue growth.

It will be interesting to note strategies of Vodafone UK that decides against LTE premium pricing. Vodafone UK charges a £5/month surcharge for LTE which offers users double the (3G) data allowance and also gives consumers the added benefit of bundling in either Spotify Premium or Sky Sports Mobile TV. Its services will go live in London with a further 12 cities switched on by the end of the year.

In June 2013, Bharti Airtel announced around 30 percent reduction in 4G data tariffs to Rs 450 from Rs 650 earlier in Bengalore, Kolkata, Pune and Chandigarh circles. Also, Airtel 4G dongles are now available for Rs 1500. Airtel is also promoting LTE saying 4G available at 3G prices.

In another report, Strategy Analytics said mobile broadband modems and connected PCs will generate $57.5 billion service revenues in 2017, while driving nearly 15 million Terabytes of data across mobile networks around the globe. Global PC/modem connections will increase to 420 million, with LTE adding 179 million connections from 2012-17.

Note: This article on Airtel is based on actual 4G data card shipment statistics.

Baburajan K
editor@telecomlead.com

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