Airtel open to working with last mile operators for broadband roll-out

MUMBAI: Telecom operator Bharti Airtel is open to partnering with last mile operators to ramp up its fibre to the home (FTTH) broadband service, a top company official has said.

Bharti Airtel MD and CEO Gopal Vittal said that the company is open to collaborations with entities that have last mile access. The local cable operators (LCOs), who are attached to MSOs, have access to the consumer’s home.

Vittal also noted that the company has been ramping up its home broadband presence. In the H1 FY19, the company added 1 million home passes. It is planning to aggressively add homes passes in the H2 as well.

“On the FTTH market, I think like I said we have rolled out aggressively in fiber-to-the-home a million home passes during the first half. We will continue to roll out aggressively in the second half, we are also looking to step up our investments on home broadband in the following year and we will be open to looking at other partnerships to expand our home presence through other entities that may have access to the last mile,” Vittal told analysts during the Q2 earnings conference call.

Vittal’s comment comes in the wake of Reliance Industries’ acquisition of controlling stake in multi system operators (MSO) DEN Networks and Hathway Cable and Datacom. Reliance has decided to buy stakes in DEN and Hathway in order to get last mile access for its FTTH service JioGigaFiber. The conglomerate is targeting 50 million homes for its wired broadband service.

He also stated that the new home passes being created by the company are through fibre technology. The company’s existing DSL asset base has also been upgraded through the vectored fiber that was introduced a year ago.

On the direct to home (DTH) side, the company said that the company sees a lot of opportunity in acquiring cable TV and terrestrial customers. “On the DTH side, I think that business continues to look good. There still is a big opportunity to upgrade from terrestrial and cable,” he stated.

Airtel is positioning itself as open telco that is willing to work with multiple content partners to provide widest content choices for customers. The telco strengthened its product portfolio in Q2 through partnerships with Netflix, ZEE5, and NDTV.

“We added Netflix, Zee5 and NDTV HOP to our already wide base of content choices. Whilst the Netflix partnership allows three months of free trial only for Airtel customers, the Zee partnership allows to access to select premium original series and movies from Zee5 exclusively on Airtel’s registered properties like Airtel TV. All these partnerships enable our customers to enjoy a superior and differentiated content experience,” Vittal averred.

Speaking about the Airtel Thanks digital programme, Vittal said that the programme gives the brand the ability to engage with a vast base of smartphone customers. Under this first of its kind programme, all Airtel customers who commit a monthly ARPU of Rs. 100 and above will receive additional benefits at no extra charge. These benefits will include access to premium digital content, great offers on smartphones and online shopping vouchers.

“By leveraging its deep customer insight Airtel will work with partners to co-create custom-made offerings for Airtel customers. We have received very enthusiastic responses from our partners and look forward to building Airtel Thanks into a large scale telco brand collaboration property,” he noted.

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