Five Moves Airtel Can Take for 4G Penetration

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If you see telecom market is going through some dull moments, all are waiting for the spectrum pricing decision to be taken by EGoM. However what happens to excitement around 4G? 4G excitement is now lowered down because no second player in the market, Airtel is just sitting alone on 4G space with their costly devices and not-so-bad tariff plans. There is no definite date from Reliance Infotel about launch or preview, rather it is heard that their Jamnagar 4G trial is delayed. Another 4G player Augere is considering their plans - to leave or exit India.

Five Moves Airtel Can Take for 4G Penetration

Only thing I find these days positive is revision of 3G tariff which is now very much affordable. Well back to 4G - Airtel seems just fails to live the 4G hype. Less than 1% of consumers are buying Airtel 4G services.

Now as Airtel is the sole player on 4G/LTE space I don't think it is logical to cut down tariff in immediate future until another 4G player comes in. Earlier I thought that Airtel will do push 4G as an alternative to wired broadband to reach areas without broadband. But that theory does not work in a non-competitive market.

Now what Airtel can do for better 4G penetration? I checked out some of Asian operators who already in 4G/LTE business and their tariffs & strategy. Some of them are quite good from the consumers' perspective which ultimately help to push 4G.

1. Expand 4G/LTE services to Delhi and Mumbai for first mover advantages

Airtel got the pie of 4G spectrum in Delhi and Mumbai and 2 other circles as they bought 49% of Qualcomm India's 4G venture. In many forcasts on 4G in India, it has been confirmed that Delhi and Mumbai will generate most of the revenue over 4G.

Before Infotel steps in, Airtel should try to roll out 4G/LTE services in these two most lucrative circles, where they can get the boost as first mover.

2. Cut down device price to lower down 'Entry Point'

I don't expect the price cuts to Rs 2-3K from current 8K, but certainly a reduction in price to Rs 5-6K will reduce the entry point, which may leverage into better 4G device and plan sale. Also adding 3G data (discussed later) can help in 4G service sale.

3. Free Device Concept fails - Rather add data benefits at no extra cost

Currently Airtel offers 4G in this way: Buy the device at full payment and get some discounts over 6 or 12 months to recover the cost. There is no problem with this strategy, but Indian consumers don't like this way. Rather Airtel should try this way - 5GB data free for next 3 months and forth month onwards you can opt for any prepaid or postpaid plans.

Note: STC in Saudi Arabia offer 10GB/month data for 3 months after customer buys the 4G dongle paying full amount.

4. Night unlimited 4G plans

Airtel for time being, as a part of promotion as well as to check network stability can offer unlimited usage at night for 4G customers. Even 2 hours free every night will work to win youngsters' heart.

Note: Etisalat in UAE offers 12am - 3am unlimited usage on every LTE plans including Pay-as-you go.

5. Add 3G data and pan India data roaming at no extra cost on existing 4G tariff plans

I know many people who travel a lot, and ready to shell out Rs 8K to subscribe to Airtel 4G, but they are not interested as Airtel 4G works in Kolkata and Bangalore only. Airtel via ICRA has 3G presence all over the country (except Orissa), so why they don't add soem 3G data (double of 4G data) and enable pan-India data roaming at zero extra cost. It will suit for enterprise customers.

Note: SingTel in Singapore adds 50GB 3G data with its only 10GB 4G data plan, as 4G coverage is still low.

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