Why Reliance Jio wins hands down against Airtel 4G

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4G war is definitely heating up and all of us are waiting with baited breath for Reliance Jio to launch its services. We have seen what Airtel has to offer in terms of 4G and now have lot of expectations from Reliance Jio in terms of 4G services in India.


In my last article, I had analysed the pricing strategy of Airtel 4G. Today I am analysing Airtel vs Reliance Jio 4G and want to reason out why I am placing my bets on Jio. There are different parameters to it and I will analyse each one of them.

Service coverage: There is a basic difference between how Jio and Airtel are approaching coverage. Jio is planning to launch its services pan India while Airtel is still targeting individual cities for its launch. This gives edge to Jio for targeting wider audience and not just focusing on limited cities.

Customers: As per the 80-20 rule, in any business, 80% revenue comes from 20% customers. If we look at 4G markets, operators would currently be targeting early adopters. Mass adoption is a long way to go and might take 3-4 years after the initial 4G launch. The need for high speed quality data at reasonable price is the key driver and Jio has been creating this need through its ecosystem of apps. Also drawing from one of the key insights from the recently conducted poll on TT, it was interesting to see a segment of customers who are fence sitters and are awaiting the launch of Jio to test the 4G waters. Jio has been successful in creating anticipation amongst the prospective customers. This is definitely a plus one for Jio.

Devices: One of the key challenges that operators planning to launch 4G have is availability of cost efficient 4G handsets. In the recent times, some of the mobile companies have launched low cost phones, but lack of handsets will still remain a barrier for adoption of 4G. Jio’s plan to come up with its Jio branded phones might be a step in the direction of overcoming this barrier.

Apart from the handset, to enable 4G usage, Jio will offer devices including set-top-boxes, dongles, modems and Mifis. Availability of these devices at optimum prices is the key. Having these devices running at different frequencies of spectrum clearly makes Jio stand out.

Spectrum: Until the start of this year, Jio had an edge over the rest of the operators with pan India spectrum in the 2300 MHz band. Post the spectrum auction in February this year, this edge was lost when Airtel won spectrum in the 1800 MHz range. Combining the spectrum in the 1800 MHz and 2300 MHz band Airtel now has a pan-India 4G footprint. Strength of Airtel lies in voice and lacks in broadband, whereas Jio’s strength lies in broadband and lacks in voice. Jio has tried to negate this weakness by partnering with Reliance communications to provide a seamless 2G, 3G and 4G experience.

Another interesting aspect of Jio’s spectrum strategy is how it has allocated different segment bands for different usages. 2300 MHz band has been allocated for TD-LTE which will mainly cater to corporate sector and home broadband which will be connected through Mifi devices. This would be the high consumption segment which would be catered on 20MHz unpaired continuous chunk. 1800MHz will be used for FD-LTE for mobiles that would be served by 5MHz paired spectrum block. Airtel has not made any such distinction despite the poor ecosystem of TD-LTE devices.

Voice services: While Airtel will be sticking to its 2G technology to handle voice calls, Jio has a 2 way action plan to handle voice. It has partnered with Reliance Communications to use its network for voice calls and will actively be pushing VoLTE through its in-house app which will provide superior quality HD voice.

Services offered:  While retail customers are always key in a telecom market, equally important is the enterprise segment. In fact, enterprise markets are seeing growth and higher ARPU in lieu of the retail markets reaching saturation. Jio has got this point bang on and has plans to launch its solutions in the healthcare and home security verticals offering the entire end-to-end network and equipment solution. This is an area where Airtel lacks and Jio remains unmatched.

Overall Strategy: One of the key reasons why Jio wins hands down against Airtel is its strategy of not offering a spectrum centric service. Rather Jio has treated spectrum just as a means and has laid focus on the service itself. Data is at the centre and voice is a peripheral offering. From the past couple of post about Jio on TelecomTalk, it is clear that Jio is creating an ecosystem of applications which will drive the data usage. In a way, Jio is associating exclusivity to its offerings thereby giving incentives to the people to adopt 4G. This is a brilliant move which will prompt more and more users to subscribe to 4G. From what we know so far, Jio-on-Demand, Jio-Beats, Jio-drive and Jio-TV are the kind of apps which will push the content usage. Apart from Apps, Jio also has broadband and VoLTE plans which will make it a multi-play service provider. From the recently conducted survey by one of the authors of TT, we saw, about 80% subscribers are the low data users who use data between 512MB and 3GB. Pushing the data consumption will be the key to winning the 4G war and Jio has built the weapon to do exactly that.

This is where Airtel has missed the point. It is treating 4G as any other service and has tried to play with price to increase 4G adoption. Airtel’s recent move to price 4G below 3G will only lead to price wars and overall fall in ARPU for the 4G markets. This kind of strategy will not lead to accelerated adoption of 4G unless there is an incentive to use the high speed 4G service offered to the consumers.

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