After launching 4G services in Kerala, Karnataka, Mumbai and Kolkata, Vodafone India today launched the next generation services in Delhi and NCR, where it has about one crore customers and data contributes around 25% of total revenues. Beginning with key business and residential corridors in NCR across Gurgaon, which today constitute more than 10% of its data users, the company will soon expand 4G services across the length and breadth of Delhi in a phased manner.
Telecom Talk caught up with Apoorva Mehrotra, Business Head-Delhi and NCR circle, Vodafone India, to know more about its 4G rollout.
Question: Even though Vodafone India has launched 4G services in five circles, including Delhi and NCR today, 4G-enabled handsets still remain a major problem. What would be your approach in tackling this challenge?
Answer: What we can see is that the ecosystem for 4G is still at a nascent stage. However, as a leading telecom service provider, by bringing out 4G to Delhi and NCR, we expect to catalyze this entire ecosystem revolution. In fact, the one question, we have been asking ourselves for quite some years is when will the 2G only devices will stop getting manufactured.
And I think now we are very close to finding an answer, because when you are probably couple of generations ahead then the older technology dilutes, we have seen this across various categories. For example, if you look at televisions, the oldest tube televisions transformed to flat when the Led revolution happened. So, now we can expect as the 4G service is live, the ecosystem should develop and the device prices should come down.
We are partnering with a number of leading manufacturers such as Samsung, Micromax, Lava, Intex, in fact a lot of Indian manufacturers to make sure that bundling can help to bring this change faster and we are supporting that cause.
Question: Tell us something about the kind of partnerships you are in with device manufacturers…
Answer: It would be difficult to quantify, what would be the share of these tie-ups, but like any leading telecom service provider which wants to service the evolving needs of customers, we come out with these marquee tie-ups whenever there is a requirement.
For example, as you saw we had tied up with iphone 6 and with 6S we were offering a great bundle of offerings to our customers. In fact, not just with marquee brands but we also have data bundling tie-ups with lots of other brands like Micromax and Lava and so on, which help us feed the customers with data service experience and evolve them to a data user.
Question: In the upcoming spectrum auctions, are there any plans to acquire more 1800 MHz spectrum? Are there any plans specifically for the Delhi circle?
Answer: I think it’s too early to talk about the spectrum auctions. As a leading telecom player, I am sure that we must be having a plan, but it’s not the right time to talk about. However, we welcome the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s recommendation to put up a lot of spectrum for sale. So, we will see and chalk out our plans as we move forward.
Question: Keeping in mind the entry of Reliance Jio and the plans of other formidable rivals, how are you planning to strengthen your Delhi circle?
Answer: We believe that a customer-centric strategy which focuses on customer needs, which focuses on giving a great user experience to the customers is the best defence against any competition.
As long as you are consistently and constantly evolving as an operator to serve the needs of your customer, you will continue to win in the market because a customer does not look at any service, price or any one particular element. A customer looks at value; a customer looks at bundle of benefits, including the trust for the brand, the credibility of the service provider and so on. Therefore, a customer-centric strategy which focuses on user experience or customer experience is going to be the key for us. And the USP (unique selling proposition) would be consistency, transparency, ensuring great customer experience and access to customers whenever and wherever they want.
Question: How many customers addition do you foresee post 4G launch in the Delhi circle?
Answer: We have about one crore customers in the Delhi and NCR circle and every month, we are adding substantial numbers, but it would be too early to comment on any specific targets or numbers.
We invite our data savvy customers in Delhi and NCR to make the most of the bonanza of special benefits being offered and enjoy the best mobile internet experience. Our subscribers can enjoy three months access to free TV, movies and music on Vodafone Play as part of Vodafone 4G subscriptions. Besides, with the subscription, customers can access over 100 live TV channels, HooQ, video-on-demand service with over 35,000 hours of Hollywood blockbusters and popular local programs. Packs ranging from a trial pack of 35MB at Rs 11 to a bonanza pack of 20GB at Rs 2,499 are also available.
Question: Are there any specific challenges you are facing in the Delhi circle?
Answer: One of the challenges is around the EMF myth. The challenge is how to educate the customers and shoo away their concerns over EMF and we can put up more number of towers in the city. The other challenge we see around some sort of activism by Municipal Authorities. Some of our sites got sealed by Municipal authorities and this matter has gone to court as well, which is also a very big challenge.
Question: What type of response have you received so far with the launch of 4G services?
Answer: From our previous launches in Kerala, Karnataka and Kolkata, we got extremely encouraging response from our customers. I think over time we will be able to say something about numbers, right now it’s too early to talk about numbers.
Our endeavour is to get more and more customers to experience 4G, which is why the entire SIM upgradation process is free, 4G is available at 3G prices and if you have 4G-enabled device and you are in a 3G pack, you will get 4G services wherever the network is available.
Having over six years of experience in business journalism, Krishna has a knack for writing on telecom and IT. She believes that tryst with technology is the best thing that has ever happened to mankind. Krishna is a telecom analyst