NEW DELHI: India’s largest teleco, Bharti Airtel made a concerted bid to poach 4G customers from rivals, launching a special offer that allows additional 3GB of data each month for a year for customers who switch to its services from rivals and opt for mid-to-high end plans.
Airtel’s latest offer for more data at same price points – for subscribers to its Rs 345 pre-paid plan and for those post-paid users opting for plans starting with Rs 549 – is aimed at increasing its 4G customer base at a time Reliance Jio has notched up more than 50 million 4G users and is aggressively trying to ramp that up to 100 million through free voice and data services.
The offers, which have free unlimited voice bundled in, will be available to consumers from January 4 till February 28, with subscribers getting 3GB data free every month till December 31, over and above what is available in the usual plan, Airtel said in a statement issued Tuesday.
A person familiar with the matter said Vodafone India is also likely to announce a data offer in a few days.
“We are seeing increasing penetration of 4G handsets across the country and believe that this attractive offer will provide an opportunity to more customers to enjoy high-speed broadband on their devices with Airtel,” Ajai Puri, director-market operations at Bharti Airtel, said in the statement.
Airtel’s mobile broadband user base as of September 30, 2016, was 41.33 million, of which 4G subscribers were a small part. In the fourth quarter ended March 2016, the telco had only five million 4G users.
This (Airtel’s new offer) is in response to Jio’s launch. The telco is trying to attract high-end customers,” said Rohan Dhamija, head-India and South Asia at Analysys Mason. He added that the industry’s business model is moving from a high tariff and low data to a low tariff and high data regime.
Dhamija said there is a significant quantum of 4G spectrum available that can support high data usage and Airtel’s was a logical step given that there is more 4G capacity than demand.
“We will continue to delight our customers with vale offerings,” a Vodafone spokesman said when asked about matching Airtel. An Idea spokesperson declined comment on the matter.
Hemant Joshi, telecom lead analyst at consultancy firm Deloitte, said the industry paradigm has shifted towards data. “Low data tariff seems to be an emerging industry practice, and it will benefit consumers in a short run but as economics factored in, it may not be viable in the long term,” Joshi added.