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Airtel India CEO Gopal Vittal On Monetization Strategies

Airtel achieved 2.3 percent quarter-on-quarter growth in mobile revenues, diverging further from Vodafone Idea (–4.2 percent) and surpassing it to become the #2 telecoms operator in India.

Airtel India’s ARPU rose 3.1 percent quarter-on-quarter to Rs 127 as compared with Rs 108 for Vodafone Idea, according to a report from JM Financial.

The telecom operator said it will completely shut down its 3G network during the financial year in order to focus on building high-ARPU customers on its all India 4G network that will bring more data and content revenue.

Airtel, the #1 telecom operator based on revenue, aims to utilise the spectrum in the band to offer 4G services. Airtel will shift its 3G customers to the 4G network.

Airtel plans to shut down its 3G network in 6-7 telecom circles September this year, and in all the remaining circles by March next year.

The Sunil Mittal-promoted telecom operator in June this year had shut down its 3G network in Kolkata, becoming the first telecom operator to do so. Airtel is currently refarming the 3G spectrum for 4G services.

The company will be utilizing most of its airwaves for offering 4G services and just about 5-8 MHz spectrum — primarily administratively allotted — in each telecom circle will be used for offering 2G services.

Airtel’s 2G customers constitute around 70 percent of its user base while the rest are 3G and 4G. The company has a spectrum holding of around 946.7 MHz across India in various bands including 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz and 2300 MHz etc.

The company aims to upgrade its 2G mobile customers to 4G in order to increase the average revenue per user (ARPU).

Airtel had lost around 45 million mobile phone customers in Q4 of FY 2018-19 and about 1.5 million in Q1 FY 2019-20 after the introduction of the minimum Rs 35 plan. As a result of the plan, Airtel India’s mobile ARPU has increased to Rs 129 during the first quarter of current financial year.

Airtel has added 8.4 million customers on its 4G platform during the June quarter. Airtel India’s 4G subscriber base reached 95 million. The total number of data customers reached 120 million on its 2G, 3G and 4G networks.

Monetization

Gopal Vittal said the company aims to reduce the churn in mobile phone subscriber base by shifting its 2G mobile phone customers to 4G network through loyalty programs like Airtel Thanks etc.

Vodafone Idea has launched Har Recharge Pe Extra offer for its pre-paid customers offering cash-back, more data and unlimited calls, etc. on every recharge. But offers will depend on the amount of the recharge.

Airtel is also exploring carrier billing and advertisement on its over-the-top (OTT) apps to increase revenues.

Airtel has tested carrier billing with video streaming company Netflix. Airtel is offering free subscription of Netflix for three months to customers with Rs 499 or above. Customers can pay for Netflix subscription through their Airtel mobile bill post the free offer, The Financial Express reported.

Airtel has also tested the advertisement options along with Wynk music app. The company may start the commercial roll out of advertisement options later.―Telecom Lead

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