Jio and Airtel Duopoly Might Kill Innovation in Indian Telecom: Opinion

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Most subscribers of the telecom industry are either using the services from Reliance Jio or Bharti Airtel. Jio came into the market in 2016 and has become the number one telco in the country quickly. Since its entry, multiple telecom companies have gone out of service. Apart from Jio, only three operators remain - Airtel, Vodafone Idea (Vi), and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL).

Both Vi and BSNL haven’t seen good days for a long time now. Even Bharti Airtel had to move very aggressively, putting all of its resources into play just to be able to compete head-to-head with Jio. Only two operators (Jio, Airtel) are essentially playing the market, while the other two (Vi, BSNL) are surviving and trying not to go bankrupt. If things stay the same and a duopoly between Jio and Airtel is formed, it might kill innovation in the Indian telecom industry.

Jio and Airtel Duopoly Nightmare

Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel’s duopoly nightmare might become true in a few years. BSNL is facing roadblocks, one after another, for launching its 4G network in India. It would be a sad reality to live in if the government-run telco can’t even roll out its 4G network while the private players already start competing in the 5G domain.

Adding to this, if things remain the same for Vi, it might go bankrupt sooner than later. The telco is losing subscribers quarter after quarter even though it provides some of the most unique offers.

Shall the day comes and a duopoly between Jio and Airtel is formed, it will lead to slow growth and less innovation in the Indian telecom industry. Both the telcos will set the rules, set the tariff floors, and relax while they each make a ton of money because of no competition.

None of the operators would be really motivated to roll out competing offers since killing the other operator would become a threat of turning into a monopoly. When this happens, you might not see the unique offers you do now, because simply put, the telcos won’t care.

Can BSNL and Vi Make a Comeback?

However, this scenario can be changed if either BSNL or Vi or both the operators can make a strong comeback into the market. Vi already has a solid portfolio of spectrum to provide seamless connectivity to its users throughout the country.

BSNL only needs to fast-track the 4G process. The government needs to understand that it is now or never for BSNL. If the government keeps on becoming a hindrance, BSNL will either shut down in a few years, eating away all the taxpayers' money, or it will be privatised.

Cheap 4G offerings from BSNL can change the whole market scenario. Whereas for Vi, it has been rolling out some exciting offers lately. It needs to increase its market share but also has to look at its revenues. The telco might soon increase the tariffs, which are already the most expensive in the industry at the moment.

While this wouldn’t help it increase its market share by a ton, it would certainly help increase its revenues with a higher average revenue per user (ARPU). Vi needs to decide and decide fast the course it is going to go in. At the same time, BSNL should focus on getting network equipment of good quality, which will further allow the telco in shifting from 4G to 5G with relative ease.

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Tanay is someone with whom you can chill and talk about technology and life. A fitness enthusiast and cricketer, he loves to read and write.

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