War of Words Escalates Between India's Jio & Airtel

India's biggest operator and its high-profile new entrant are battling fiercely for broadband market share.

Gagandeep Kaur, Contributing Editor

February 21, 2017

3 Min Read
War of Words Escalates Between India's Jio & Airtel

The rivalry between Indian operators Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio has reached an extraordinary level of intensity. In a relatively recent move, Jio went as far as blaming Airtel for the poor quality of service that its own customers sometimes experience, saying that by not providing enough points of interconnect (POIs) its bigger competitor was responsible for a severe dropped calls rate of 53%.

Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL), in turn, has insisted that it has provided as many as 35,000 POIs to Jio and that Jio's problems are down to its own infrastructure.

"The POls have been provided well above the customer growth projection provided by Jio to Airtel," said Airtel in a press release. "The capacity provided is ideal for serving over 190 million customers on the Reliance Jio network and is more than double of the 72.5 million total customers currently claimed by Jio. It, therefore, appears that the constant rhetoric by Jio with regard to POIs is aimed at covering up technical issues in their own network or their inability to activate the POls given."

Airtel has also argued that 79% of the POIs it provided to Jio were used for incoming calls, and that this meant it was providing more POIs to Jio for this purpose than any other network operator. Moreover, Airtel says its POIs are capable of managing more than 190 million customers, while Jio serves only around 100 million.

Airtel has even taken the dramatic step of approaching the Prime Minister's office to draw attention to Jio's perceived shortcomings.

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The POIs issue is just one of the most recent in a sequence of spats between the two telcos. Jio's tariff plans have been a particular bone of contention between the two operators. By offering free voice services for life, and free data for a limited period, Jio has all of India's established players under huge pressure.

Aggrieved at what they see as unfair tactics, Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular Ltd. -- India's three biggest service providers -- have complained to the Competition Commission of India (CCI) that Jio is guilty of "predatory pricing." Jio, of course, has made its own case to the CCI that the incumbents have been displaying "cartel-like behavior."

This constant war of words between Airtel and Jio shows how desperate each player is to quickly build up market share in India's fast-developing broadband sector. Since its launch in September 2016, Jio claims to have signed up around 100 million customers. In the near future, it hopes to attract new customers through moves into other digital sectors, such as providing set-top boxes and connectivity systems for the automotive industry. It is also working on a new voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) feature phone that will be more affordable than today's devices.

Airtel, meanwhile, is expanding its 4G network at a breakneck speed and experimenting with carrier aggregation technology, whereby spectrum channels are combined to boost bandwidth. It is also upgrading its network to ensure that customers can enjoy a superior quality of service.

— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Gagandeep Kaur

Contributing Editor

With more than a decade of experience, Gagandeep Kaur Sodhi has worked for the most prominent Indian communications industry publications including Dataquest, Business Standard, The Times of India, and Voice&Data, as well as for Light Reading. Delhi-based Kaur, who has knowledge of and covers a broad range of telecom industry developments, regularly interacts with the senior management of companies in India's telecom sector and has been directly responsible for delegate and speaker acquisition for prominent events such as Mobile Broadband Summit, 4G World India, and Next Generation Packet Transport Network.

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