State-owned telecommunications provider Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), once a dominant player in the home broadband and wireline segments, is struggling to retain its market share amid aggressive expansion by private competitors such as Jio and Airtel. BSNL's decline can be attributed to weak investments and poor service quality, according to a Financial Express report.
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BSNL offers high-speed broadband services via Bharat Fiber, a Fiber to the Home (FTTH) service that uses optical fibre cables to provide high-speed internet connectivity. BSNL also bundles Unlimited Voice calling, including Local and National, along with its FTTH plans.
Market Share Decline and Competitive Landscape
BSNL's market share in the fixed home broadband space has been steadily declining due to increasing competition and other factors. In the fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) segment, BSNL currently has 3.54 million subscribers as of February, while Jio and Airtel boast 8.02 million and 5.98 million subscribers, respectively. BSNL lost its top position in the segment to Jio just two years after the commercial launch of JioFiber in November 2021.
Similarly, in the wireline segment, which provides internet services through landline connections, BSNL's subscriber base stood at 7.06 million as of February. Jio and Airtel have 8.8 million and 7 million wireline subscribers, respectively. Analysts predict that Airtel will soon overtake BSNL as the second-largest player in this segment. Bharti Airtel recently launched Broadband Standby Plans to expand its broadband market and service offerings. More about Airtel Standby plans can be read from the link below.
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Challenges Faced by BSNL
BSNL's leadership has expressed concern about the growing number of disconnections in the FTTH segment. During a meeting with circle heads, BSNL CMD PK Purwar urged them to identify the reasons behind this trend. According to the report, a document containing excerpts from the meeting highlighted the need to address disconnection rates exceeding 30% in certain circles.
Investment in infrastructure and service quality emerged as major challenges for BSNL. In the meeting, the circle heads were asked to ensure that the network uptime must be more than 99% as a non-negotiable key performance indicator (KPI). In addition, circle heads were instructed to organize open house sessions with telecom infrastructure partners to identify and resolve any underlying issues affecting service quality.
"Target of rural fault clearance is six hours, and urban fault clearance is four hours irrespective of any type of fault. 75% faults should be attended in these timelines," the report quoted officials aware of the development.
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BSNL's Future Plans and Regional Performance
Despite the challenges, BSNL remains committed to expanding its fibre broadband coverage and aims to connect 40 million households over the next four years.
Among its regional circles, BSNL has witnessed a strong performance in seven circles: Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, and Rajasthan in terms of FTTH connections. However, Kerala, which generates the highest revenue for BSNL overall, experienced a revenue decline in the last financial year, according to the officials aware of the development quoted in the report. Kerala was amongst the nine non-performing circles.
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Industry Trends and Outlook
In February, India's overall fixed broadband subscriber base declined by 0.29 million to 32.8 million compared to January. BSNL lost 0.64 million subscribers during this period, while Jio and Airtel added 0.18 million and 0.13 million subscribers, respectively.
BSNL's struggle to retain its market share in the home broadband and wireline segments highlights the service quality, intense competition from private players and the need for improved investment and service quality.