Rohit Paranjpe, CEO of SugarBox told TelecomTalk that “consumers are facing imminent tariff hikes” for both voice and data services with the hikes set to be in the range of 10%. Paranjpe highlighted the “cheapest data” rate of Rs 3.5 per GB is currently offered in a plan priced at Rs 599 with an 84 days validity. However, Paranjpe said that the same data plan will be priced in the range of Rs 3360 to Rs 5580, “if the regulator accepts” proposed floor data prices. The telecom operators in India including Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio proposed floor data prices in the range of Rs 20 to Rs 35 per GB.
In late May, it emerged that the discussion on floor prices would happen after the COVID-19 lockdown was lifted. However, ICICI Securities earlier in the day said in a research note that it is expecting progress on the floor prices of cellular data. Paranjpe said that the tariff hikes might result in user erosion and consumption erosion.
“India today has cheapest data but speed on [the] internet is one of the slowest,” Paranjpe told TelecomTalk. “In such [a] situation, [tariff] increase will affect not only usage but also have a negative influence in the Digital India Drive. In this scenario solution like SugarBox is exactly what customers would want to latch on to.”
SugarBox is said to be the “only network in the world” that enables users to access their “favourite apps seamlessly” without the need for a user to connect to the user’s mobile data. The company sets up a “hyperlocal” content delivery network (CDN) and discovery network at “key places of interest (POIs) that are frequented by consumers.” It was said that SugarBox serves as a “complementary” solution rather than “competing” with the existing stakeholders.
“A user does not need any external set-up to access SugarBox,” Paranjpe said. “Once he/she is at a SugarBox zone, he can connect to SugarBox like a Wi-Fi server.”
The company is said to have made pilot deployments in nine cities and 250 POIs across India with the company offering its service to various POIs in cities such as Mumbai and Hyderabad.
“This is a technology which is reimagining the way data delivery on the internet works making internet services more available, reliable, affordable, and contextual,” Paranjpe said.
The CEO of SugarBox also told TelecomTalk that the company is “looking to spanning” its network to Delhi, Kolkata and other cities in the next two years. It was said that the company aims to cover PAN India including the urban and the rural areas by the end of 2025.
“With the current investment, SugarBox will commence commercial services and scale up the network across public transport, revolutionizing the digital experience for over 300 mn monthly unique users over the next 2 to 3 years,” Paranjpe said.
The company is said to have long-term “exclusive” partnerships with Hyderabad Metro, Chennai Metro, Central Railways and Navi Mumbai buses. Further, Paranjpe said that the company was awarded a tender by the Indian railways to install its solution on “all operating trains” along with powering 5400 WiFi enabled stations across India.
It was said that SugarBox will be able to drive “faster data delivery” to its users as its “infrastructure is closer to the user.” SugarBox also promises “seamless access to apps even in areas” with limited data connectivity and also to users “without an active internet connection.”
“With respect to app partners, we are in the process of integrating [a] few more apps by the end of the year,” Paranjpe said. “The industries that we are very actively pursuing are entertainment OTT, the second is gaming, third is e-commerce and the fourth is education.”
Paranjpe told TelecomTalk that the “core aim” of SugarBox is to “decrease the data accessed over the internet thereby freeing up bandwidth on the existing last-mile networks.”
“SugarBox can solve a problem of [a] billion people in our country who can’t afford the charges of data usage,” he said.