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HomeArticlesTelecomThis Time, Mukesh Ambani Aims His Gun at Cable TV & Broadband Sector
Thursday, 16 August 2018 12:06

This Time, Mukesh Ambani Aims His Gun at Cable TV & Broadband Sector

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Who could forget September 2016? It was the month of ‘Great Disruption’ in telecom sector when Mukesh Ambani’s newly launched telecom service platform Reliance Jio caused a revolutionary shift and threw many out of business with its free and high speed internet as well as free local, STD calls and SMS, and also for the first time in the country brought a new technology, VoLTE. Those who underestimated a new player were found sunken in deep astonishment a few months later when Reliance Jio looted other telecom operators’ customer base that counted in millions. 

The situation was akin to a medieval age kingdom which had sunken itself in its whims and fancies and suppressing its subjects with heavy taxes, while totally neglecting latest technologies in warfare. Then one day, an invading army appeared from nowhere with the latest warfare technologies and promises of golden times for the subjects. It came, it saw, it won!

Mukesh Ambani added millions of customers in a short duration causing grave tension across the sector, and forcing leading operators like Airtel and Idea to cut their rates many times to retain fleeing customers. 

While customer became the king, Jio also caused several side effects; the sector, already stressed, found itself in massive debt, and Reliance Communications and Aircel closed their businesses while Telenor was sold to Airtel. Idea and Vodafone found wisdom in merging to compete with Airtel and Jio. Finally, there was no place for smaller players.

 

Jio GigaFiber:

Now, Mukesh Ambani is aiming his gun at cable TV and broadband sector, and the established players are as tense as telcos were in September 2016. On 5 July 2018, Ambani’s daughter Isha Ambani launched Jio GigaFiber at the Reliance Industries' 41st annual general meeting in Mumbai.  It is the optical fibre-based broadband service. 

 Jio GigaFiber (FTTH) project will commercially roll-out from 15 August 2018 across 1100 cities. Jio GigaFiber will offer 1 Gbps download speeds and 100Mbps upload speed. Right now, GigaFiber is testing with its beta version in many houses across the co untry.

Unlike VoLTE, FTTH (fiber-to-the-home) is not the new technology in India to be brought by RJio. The state owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) already offers FTTH broadband schemes in Kolkata and Chennai. However, Jio's entry in FTTH will at a much bigger scale and more aggressive. Jio is already running a pilot in many cities. 

 

Impact on Stock Market:

With this announcement, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) yet again caught the imagination of stock market traders who are anticipating another round of tariff war, this time in the cable TV segment. 

The day the announcement was made, selling pressure in Hathway Cable, Siti, Den Networks and Sun TV was high at the stock market. Shares of cable TV operators were down in the range of 2.7 to 15 per cent post the announcement. Siti Network was down 2.76 per cent, Hathway fell 15.4 per cent, Den 10.7 per cent and SunTV was down 2.76 per cent. 

 According to a Managing Director of a Mumbai-based brokerage and research house, “RIL is ruthlessly aggressive and the experience of Jio phone network is proof that fibre TV network too could give a run to other players for their money. Share price of cable TV companies including DTH players may remain under pressure for months to come. See what has happened to the share price of Idea and Bharti from a couple of years ago. You will know the fate of cable TV company shares’ prices in the months to come.”

 

What is FTTH technology? 

Jio GigaFibre will be based on Fiber to the home (FTTH) technology, which has all the features to disrupt the segment. In FTTH, it is the fiber cable which is used right up to the customer’s home/office. At present, the fiber cable reaches only till the main premises while the last connections to individual homes/offices are through traditional copper cable. 

Main features of Jio GigaFiber: 

The new broadband system of the Jio will have two main features - smart home technology and TV calling. Jio GigaFiber broadband will also have a 4K set-top- box (STB) for TV. It will have enabled voice command feature on TV. Jio GigaFiber will have its own special router called Jio   GigaRouter besides a set top box (STB) Jio GigaTV that will allow customers to place voice calls, and allow for media sharing as well. Ambani also announced that Jio GigaTV will provide 600 TV channels.

To loot customers of the existing players in broadband sector, Reliance Jio may offer an attractive combo of fast broadband connectivity at initial data speeds of 100 Mbps, as well as, lots of free or cheap data.

 

It is faster in speed:

At present, the traditional cable used is not as efficient as the fiber cable. Due to patches, etc, the traditional cable is slower. A fiber cable till the individual unit dramatically increases speed and quality and improves the experience of surfing, gaming and streaming, etc. FTTH could be 100 times faster than the traditional modem connections. 

 

Heavy investment: 

Mukesh Ambani said that RIL will invest more than Rs 250,000 crore in order to bring in broadband and mobile connectivity throughout the nation; thereby marking the largest fiber seeds in the country. 

 

Will it disrupt the segment?

Rohan Dhamija, partner & head for India, South Asia & Middle East at Analysys Mason, said that Jio GigaFiber has everything to disrupt home broadband pricing, forcing rivals to bring down rates. He added that disruption can be heavy if Jio starts to bundle wired broadband packs with its current 4G plans. Customers will not be loyal to other service providers then.

Like Rohan, most analysts have made a grim prediction for the cable TV sector.

According to Credit rating agency India Ratings report, the launch of Jio GigaFiber has the potential to disrupt the retail broadband segment and open up new digital avenues for the enterprise broadband segment. The report had noted that Reliance Jio Infocomm is well positioned to capitalise on its wide fibre optic network across India, subject to it addressing last-mile connectivity challenges.

The report added that Jio GigaFiber would certainly increase competitive intensity among MSOs and direct-to-home (DTH) players. The extent of the impact across MSOs and DTH players would depend on their geographical diversity with regard to subscribers, the relative attractiveness of the market, and current tariffs and service offerings.

The report dubs the initiative good for content generators, as demand for and consumption of digital content is likely to rise post the availability of high-speed internet.

 

What Cable TV industry feels & suggests: 

While fear persists in the sector after announcements, many cable TV operators feel that Jio GigaFiber will be good for the industry as a whole as penetration of wireline broadband in India is pathetic. They also see the entry of Reliance Jio as a sign of the potential that this industry possesses.

They also feel that it would not be easy task for RJio as this time it is about cable, not wireless. 

 DEN Networks CEO SN Sharma said: “The market size in India is huge with space for all. We welcome this development. This shows the business potential in the sector. Entry by an organised player and that too a large telco like Jio will bring lot of attention a nd attraction in this space.”

Sharma added Jio GigaFiber will boost the process of wired broadband roll-out in the country as other players will also spring into action to get a slice of the broadband market. “This will also mean faster roll out of Broadband Services in the country. And will also bring in latest technology. All the same, it means better systems processes for a robust business model.”

Sharma is not afraid as he said: “India just has 6% penetration level, whereas all developed economies have close to 60%+ penetration, so there is scope for everyone.” He also said that his company has also announced low Capex based Broadband Plan to cover 100 cities in next 12 months. The rollout is in progress with plans at a price of ` 550.

Siti Networks chief business transformation officer Rajesh Sethi concurs with Sharma, and said that Jio GigaFiber is good as it will boost competition and latest technologies. “It will consolidate the segment.”

Sethi has his own plan to compete with RJio; his company will be more focused on the video business, unlike other MSOs who have a significant exposure to the broadband business. Sethi also gives tips to the existing players and said that they must manage the complexities of last mile connectivity as that will be the key to survival.

He added: “As a strategy, we are more focused on increasing our penetration where we already have a home-pass creation to ensure better utilization of our wired infrastructure.”

He suggested that apart from deepening its presence in existing markets, operators should also work on reducing their churn besides improving direct customer connect through last mile operator to offer better service.

He gave tips: “Identify low hanging fruits. For example, few months back we launched in Nagpur. We are not going berserk. We are treading very carefully in this space so that we are able to generate RoI for all the stakeholders.”

Fastway Transmission CEO Peeush Mahajan also believes that Jio GigaFiber will bring in the competition which will help the wired broadband market to grow. It will also lead to an improvement in service and a better choice for customers.

He added that the MSOs and LCOs have also been doing FTTH broadband for many years now. He also feels that the FTTH roll-out will not be an easy task for Reliance Jio.

Mahajan said: “Jio is talking about the urban market which just contributes 30% to our business. For us, the big growth area is rural areas. We have been focusing on the broadband business for the last two years because we knew someday somebody will come. The rural market is still untapped.”

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