Yet Airtel’s strategy is different. Unlike Jio (which has no play in DTH), it is betting big on DTH, though under its twin strategies it is also cautiously expanding its FTTH offering.
The merger with Dish TV
provides Airtel substantial access to new homes. Analysts say that though digital cable still constitutes over 40 per cent of connections across Indian TV households, paid DTH is catching up and has cornered about 34 per cent (it did lose some subscribers as a result of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India tariff order) share.
Certainly Airtel believes it has some major advantages. One Airtel executive says that DTH is the most cost effective way to reach homes, unlike fibre where the cost of last mile connectivity is expensive and time consuming. Also it can reach pan-Indian including remote areas of the country which cable and fibre cannot, which has been a strength of Dish TV
Two, it believes that there are two different kinds of markets which require different solutions. DTH is meant for subscribers who are willing to pay Rs 200-300 a month and not more. Fibre to home is meant for subscribers who are ready to fork out Rs 700 or more a month to get entertainment through OTT, high speed broadband and the works. But it is a very niche market.
The reason: According to estimates, the size of the FTTH market is around 30 million homes, which currently have an annual salary of Rs 10 lakh, who experts say can afford FTTH. If the rural areas are taken away, the size of the market is only 20 million.
That explains why Jio has brought down its earlier target for FTTH to a fewer number. And even Bharti which has been offering fixed broadband for a few years has only 2.36 million homes connected and is hoping to reach an additional 5 million addressable homes in three years — a very cautious growth plan.
Thirdly, Bharti also sees an opportunity in providing combined offers by leveraging its varying services together for those willing to pay. So it is offering a triple play integrated plan which include DTH, broadband, OTT and mobile connections in a single package with a single bill. The company is also working on coming out with an integrated box which will offer all these services without having to buy different boxes.