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Indian telcos post 30% jump in traffic during lockdown

With the world’s second most populous country cooped up indoors during the lockdown, Indian telecom carriers have witnessed at least a 30% jump in traffic over the the last two weeks.

While revenue growth may still be some time away, the volume growth has been phenomenal as it takes around a year to hit these kind of growth numbers.

The country has been in a lockdown since 25 March, with its 1.3 billion population staying indoors. According to the initial plan the 21-day lockdown was to end on 14 April but was extended by another 19 days to 3 May, bringing India to a standstill.

This in turn has spurred demand for entertainment and communication as apart from accessing video streaming platforms; Indians are also using this down time to connect with their friends and family. Telecom carriers have also seen a significant data usage increase from states such as Haryana and Bihar.

“The traffic has shot up like anything. In most of the cases in key cities the traffic has gone up almost 40 to 50% rise in traffic in just 2 weeks. It’s almost full year growth that we saw in just couple of weeks,” said a Mumbai based telecom industry executive requesting anonymity.

As film theatres shut down, and eating out becomes a non-option due to social distancing requirements, people are turning to video-on-demand services that offer a variety of content at the click of a button.

According to a report by data measurement firm Nielsen, the amount of internet data used in India has grown by 19% in week four of covid-19 disruption as compared to the pre-covid period. The growth is driven by an older age group with the consumption of the 35-plus category having risen by 35%. Video streaming platforms have been a beneficiary too, with a 12% increase in the time spent per user per week.

“COAI (Cellular Operators Association of India) has pegged the growth on data traffic increase at around 25-30%. For us, after a surge in the first few days of the lockdown, it has largely stabilised now,” an industry official said requesting anonymity.

Further, video streaming services are offering free content to lure more customers, besides constantly dishing out new offerings, both movies and originals.American video streaming service Amazon Prime Video has brought out a special catalogue of children and family content, available for free. Eros Now, the streaming service owned by Eros International Ltd, is also offering a free two-month subscription.

While a Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. spokesperson didn’t comment on Mint’ queries, Randeep Sekhon, chief technology officer, Bharti Airtel said, “On the Mobile network side we are seeing shift in traffic hotspots and peak usage hours and are geared to meet this demand. Home Broadband customers are now upgrading to faster speeds and larger quota plans to support work from home and study for home needs.”

This comes in the backdrop of India’s telecom companies struggling to pay dues and penalties related to adjusted gross revenue.

“The world is faced with a pandemic that is unprecedented and limiting social interactions has been advised as an effective measure to flatten the curve. OTT (over-the-top) platforms help people cope with the monotony of being restricted to their houses and also provide some relief from the grim reality,” Neeraj Roy, founder and CEO of Hungama Digital Media that runs the Hungama video and music app, said in an earlier interview to Mint.


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