Airtel plans to launch converged STB that is capable of delivering broadband

MUMBAI: Airtel Digital TV, the DTH arm of Bharti Airtel, is planning to launch a set top box (STB) that will also have the capability to offer broadband service.

Bharti Airtel MD and CEO – India & South Asia Gopal Vittal has said that the STB will also offer a full converged entertainment experience. The launch of this STB will allow the telco to have a converged play across multiple services.

“One of the things we are looking at is to bring in a box, which will kind of offer a full converged entertainment as well as the capacity to deliver broadband. This will happen soon, and we are very excited that once we do that, then it is a full converged play that we can potentially deliver across multiple spaces. There have been some concerns about cord-cutting in the urban areas and metros. We have not seen any evidence of that yet,” Vittal said during the Q1 earnings conference call.

He also said that the DTH business is self-funding and is adding subscribers at a healthy pace. He also said that the new tariff order has helped it to add a whopping 630,000 subscribers in Q1 FY20.

“We are committing as much capital as that business needs. It is a good need little business, which is growing very well, and after the recent changes in the regulatory framework, I think we have been able to pick up almost 630,000 customers net additions in last quarter, which is a very, very big increase, a lot of it coming from the cable side. So, we are pleased with how that business has progressed,” he stated.

Talking about the wireless business, Vittal said that the company’s focus is to raise the average revenue per user (ARPU). He also reiterated that the pricing in India is low to the extent that is unsustainable.

According to him, the only way to grow ARPU is to add value to encourage people to upgrade. “As we are doing this, we are also getting increased confidence that we could also use Airtel Thanks in a way to drive other streams of revenue, such as carrier billing and perhaps some early ways to monetize this through advertising, but that is something that we are assessing right now. As of now, our effort will be to try and upgrade.”

Bharti Airtel CFO – India & South Asia Badal Bagri said that the company is working with partners like Google, Facebook, Netflix, and Amazon for deeper and distributed content caching.

“This has helped us to serve our customers with significantly lower latency, helping them to have lower buffering, better gaming experience and faster transactions. Airtel has been the first operator across the globe to commercialize Google EPC, which will further help in hosting content and latency-sensitive applications at the edge, translating into superior customer experience,” he stated.

“Our efforts have shown results. As per Ookla, Airtel has the best download speed in 16 out of 20 circles, with latency being lowest in 12 out of 20 networks compared to all other networks in May 2019. Talking briefly about the other businesses, continuing the positive momentum of last quarter, homes business continues to see positive revenue momentum.”

Bagri also noted that Airtel’s investments in FTTH pass deployment are now reaping benefits with an expansion in the base and an increase in ARPU after 10 consecutive quarters of decline. “We continue to be optimistic about the overall market opportunity and focus on the expansion of our fiber presence and efforts to offer superior propositions to our customers. The customer base stood at 2.34 million as at the end of June 30, 2019,” he stated.

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