Now, after shaking up the Indian telecom market, Reliance Jio Infocomm has vowed to disrupt the wired broadband market and DTH markets in the country with Reliance Industries’ acquisition of majority stakes in multiple system operators (MSOs) Hathway Cable & Datacom and DEN Networks; Reliance Industries (RIL) in October 2018 said it would buy 66% stake in Den Networks for ` 2,290 crore and 51.3% in Hathway Cable for `2,940 crore. Experts say that the mega deal will surely have a negative impact on broadcasters and direct-to-home (DTH) players.
On 21 January 2019, Reliance Industries got approval from the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to acquire majority stakes in two of India’s largest cable operators. With this mega deal, RIL will have a control of almost 27,000 LCOs. CCI’s approval sets path clear to have a commercial launch of Gio Giga Fiber.
The big ambition of RJio was made in May 2018 itself when Reliance Jio Infocomm president Mathew Oommen said that Rjio is looking at the broadband market as the next big growth driver.“We disrupted the mobile industry and now we are looking further.”
He added that there are 18 million broadband connected homes in India. The enterprise market is currently at a fifth of what it could be. “The last 2-3 years India has gone through disruption in almost every sector. The impact these transformations have had on more than a billion people is almost unimaginable.”
Oommen said that the bigger aim is to touch 500 million subscribers across telecom, broadband and enterprise segments. The telco is providing broadband service under Jio Fiber, which is built on fiber to the home (FTTH) technology.
Analysts say this is big risk taking but calculative appetite of Mukesh Ambani who plunges deep but takes all the survival gears with him before taking the dip. His move is aimed at becoming the largest player in the broadband as well as the cable TV and DTH market.
According to India-Ratings report, the Rjio’s consolidation in the MSO space does not augur well for broadcasters as their bargaining power to command higher subscription revenue may be spoiled. As per report, possibility of Reliance Jio to offer bundled plan, which will include both the broadband and pay cable TV markets, would negatively impact DTH players. Also, the acquisition powers RJio to control bigger markets across western, central and northern India.
If we look at Hathway’s markets which will eventually become RJio’s markets, we see that it has big presence in Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh, while GTPL Hathway has strong foothold in Gujarat and West Bengal. Den Networks covers major portions in northern India. All these markets will give power to RJio in killing the existing DTH players one by one.
Not only the territories and subscribers, RIL will also have direct access to MSOs’ vast broadband infrastructure. In DTH and broadband, last mile connectivity is crucial, which now RJio has it too smoothly. It will help Jio’sforay into the fibre-to-the-home (FTH) market.
The Ind-Ra report added: “The deal will resolve four big challenges facing MSOs - high leverage, large capex requirements for broadband roll-out, lack of a wide spectrum of content and competition threat from Rjio.”
The report says that the biggest advantage for RJio is that the deal will shorten the time horizon for its FTH foray as either competing or partnering with the highly fragmented local cable operator (LCO) universe would be a time-consuming affair.
On subscriber’s front, the mega deal gives RJio direct access to around 6.5 million broadband households (home-pass), which represents about 36 per cent of the country’s total fixed broadband subscriber base of about 18 million. RJio, in one master stroke, would have access to close to 12.5 million cable TV subscribers (nearly 7 per cent of total TV households).
RJio aims to reach 50 million household by 2021-22 and it now looks achievable. On revenue front, the subscriber base of 50 million household, at the current monthly broadband tariff of ` 500-600 per household, represents a ` 30,000-36,000 crore market for RJio.
Good for content developers:
The Rjio may spell doom for DTH players but experts say that its acquisition and expansion will be good for content providers. This might be a big opportunity for content providers to stream exclusive high-quality content via Jio DTH and cross-sell advertisements to a target segment who do not use internet, but are avid television users.
As per India Ratings report, the level of Rjio’s impact on the MSOs and DTH players will depend on their geographical diversity with regard to subscribers, the relative attractiveness of the market, and current tariffs and service offerings. The report added that this impact will be visible only in fiscal year 2019-2020.
The Jio Giga Fiber, the 1400 city plans, launched on 15 August 2018, will come with a Set-Top-Box (STB) called Jio Giga TV. It will not only offer a top-notch seamless broadband service, but also offer Ultra-HD streaming and connectivity features to TV. The Jio GigaTV will offer connectivity services like HD video and voice calling directly from customer’s TV apart from offering multi-party video conferencing, Google Assistant and Alexa support, VR gaming, and digital shopping. This is clear and present danger for all MSOs and DTH companies. The scare of Sep. 2016 is perhaps back, but this time for DTH players.
At present, there are around 69 million DTH homes and the number has been increasing because DTH players are weaning away subscribers from cable services. Currently, there are over 86 million digital cable households.
Why Jio DTH must win:
As per various media sources, Jio offers attractive plans to woo DTH households. It may soon come up with a combination of broadcasting and broadband services with two-way communications, which DTH cannot do. Also, unlike DTH, where spectrum limits the use of channels as well as high technology like 4K services, there is no such limit on a fibre network. Apart from this, FTTH can also provide customers with a range of value-added services under the internet of things (IoT) like security and safety services for homes, and healthcare services. If the fee is lower than DTH toavail of all these attractive services, one can wonder why existing DTH subscribers will not shift their loyalty. They would also not need to use a dongle to avail of net services if they take Jio.
Jawahar Goel, managing director of Dish TV, commented: “DTH through satellite has a coverage footprint across the country, so our cost of acquisition of a new customer is very low. In FTTH you need to have a large fibre footprint because the conversion of households into FTTH is not more than 25 per cent. So you require large investments to lay the last mile and that means a high cost of customer acquisition. That is why it is sustainable only when customers pay average revenue per user per month of over ` 1,000 and above. DTH average revenue per user, on the other hand, ranges from ` 250 to ` 500 a month so it caters to a different market.”
Goel added that Jio will need a fibre footprint that will cover 200 million households if it wants to reach 50 million FTTH households. That is more than the 197 million households who have TV currently.
Now we have to wait to watch if Mukesh Ambani succeeds in replicating disruptive model in DTH sector which he practiced in Sep 2016 in telecom sector with spectacular successes.