Posts filed under ‘Telecom’

Jio – 7 months after

jiolaunchA lot of data has passed through the Jio network since we wrote the last post on Jio in September ’16. More than 100 crore GB of data which by their own yield estimate of Rs.50/GB, is Rs. 5,000 crore of revenue lost for someone!  In a little less than a day, the data freebie on Jio ends and it will become a paid service. In a few days after that, we’ll know what this massive freebie translated into, in terms of new customers and their value.

I’ve been using Jio for the last 5 months, first as a secondary mobile connection primarily for data (my guess is that most people who are still are using it, are doing the same) and now as my primary and only mobile connection.  Hence, I’m mentioning below my opinion about a few things that I think have worked for Jio, and a few that have not, both from an end-user’s perspective and a marketers’.

First, what worked :

  • Freebie and Prime strategy: The freebie strategy worked, and how ! Jio crossed the 50 million subscriber mark in 83 days, something its competitors in India took more than 12 years to touch. Then, in another 87 days they hit the 100 million subscriber mark. When competitors tried hard to match the initial tariffs / plans that Jio announced, Jio overwrote them with new Prime membership plans. Pricing annual Prime membership at a rock-bottom Rs. 99 ensured that they enrolled 50 million subscribers within a month and before the current go-live date of 1st April for paid services. So, on launch day, it might well have the highest number of mobile broadband users in India (Airtel, India’s largest telecom operator had between 41-60 million 3G+4G customers in 2016 according to various News reports). The Prime plan with low data tariffs has also ensured that they have a good chance of locking in customers for another year, experiencing and testing their network while Jio irons out issues.
  • Unique customers / minimum duplications: Using the MyJio app and generating a unique barcode per device they’ve ensured – to a large extent – that there is only one Jio connection per phone / IMEI number. The unique barcode per phone and Aadhar based eKYC means Jio has very accurate knowledge about who their live customer is. This enables them to actually track ARPU (per user) rather than ARPU (per SIM) which is what the industry is compelled to track now. Remember, India has more than 12 billion telecom subscribers (November 2016) which is about 1.2 SIMS per phones in circulation (~760 million phones in circulation). Millions of disconnections happen when the regulator comes up with new rules for subscriber verification or when operators decide to clean up their Virtual Location Registers (a database of all the SIM cards being serviced on their network). By Jio’s own estimates the active SIMs will reduce by 330 million to 800 million with no voice arbitrage within a short time.
  • LYF smartphones: In 2016, Reliance Retail launched their own brand of smartphones called LYF. Prices of these phones started from a very competitive Rs 3,999 and were probably aimed at pushing 4G phones into India (“fuelled the 4G ecosystem” in Jio’s own words). By Q3-CY 16, they started bundling free Jio SIMs and apps on these phones giving them a good base of customers who stress tested their network and service infrastructure. In that quarter, LYF smartphone share crossed 7% by volume and became the #5 brand of smartphone in India. More importantly, competition caught up, now all smartphones shipped in India are LTE enabled with 7 out of 10 being 4G enabled. That’s some good groundwork and substantial base for Jio’s 4G network.
  • JioMoney tie-up with the Uber: In February, Uber and Jio announced a strategic partnership enabling payment of Uber trips using Jio’s mobile wallet JioMoney. Till then, Paytm was the only wallet option on Uber India and for Paytm, Uber was one of its biggest merchants, if not the biggest. While Jio gives out numbers of its mobile subscribers, it doesn’t give out details of adoption of their apps – which seems to be a small proportion of their user base (Google Play store indicates between 10-50 million installs of the Jio app while it’s greater than 50 million installs for Paytm). Uber gives Jio users a strong reason to migrate to using the Jiomoney app which will play a critical role for growth of Jio’s other media services apps – currently Jio is giving out free content worth over Rs. 10,000 per year to each Prime user.

What hasn’t worked and needs improvement:

  • Jio4gvoice app: This was a master stroke and a necessary evil for acquiring more customers – there are already 124 million LTE devices, not all of them VoLTE capable – but one that has the maximum potential to alienate them too. Jio4gvoice is essentially a voice calling app that enables non-VoLTE (4G-LTE) devices to be used for making calls on the Jio network. When I checked the Google play store last, there were more than 50 million installs of this app (almost a proxy of how many non-VoLTE devices are being used on their network). On these phones, this app has to be always connected to their data network, to make and receive calls and SMSes and this drains the battery quickly. Added to this, every new update brings a fresh set of bugs with it. And because it is the only way to make a call on Jio with non-VoLTE phones, any bugs in this app are the first to be noticed and the most frustrating aspect of Jio.
  • Network and Speeds: Jio might have the ‘capacity to carry 100% of India’s voice traffic’ or claim to have the ‘lowest call drop in Industry’ and offer the ‘BEST experience’. But, my experience has been quite contrary to these claims. On the move, the network has disconnection and connection issues leading to frequent call drops and inability to call back quickly. In locations like airports, they have serious network issues. JioNet could have helped in such high traffic areas, but it hasn’t been rolled out adequately and has since dropped from prime plans. As far as being the world’s largest data network goes, rarely have I obtained speeds above 1 Mbps.
  • Call connection issues: It’s common knowledge now that Jio faced issues connecting calls to users of other networks as they didn’t get sufficient points of interconnect’s (PoIs) from other telecom operators. Though the busy hour call failure rate has dropped from the highs of 88% when they launched in September, it still hovers between 8-12% (Jio publishes data on their website on a daily basis). It is really frustrating that even after 6 months, a fair bit of this issue remains. Once Jio becomes a paid service, if this issue persists, it is going to cause more agony to customers.
  • Customer service: I’ve already mentioned in my last post that the experience with Jio at customer touchpoints hasn’t been satisfactory. My aggravation with this increased last month. I had to make multiple visits to their store as well as make multiple calls to their call center to get clarity on some issues. Every time I was given a different answer, and many a times an incorrect one. Then there are other basic processes which don’t work – for example, DND activation via their app doesn’t work.
  • Finally the Marketing:
    • Relentless communication to existing user base: Either their CRM back-end has not been integrated to the payment back-end, or it is not synced frequently enough, or their marketers, data analysts and programmers are being plain lazy. Whatever the reason, existing users – even those who have enrolled into plans – have been bombarded with 100s of messages and push notifications (many of them incomplete) asking them to enrol into one of the various plans. People might ignore them as long as they are getting stuff for free, once they start paying, it’s a different expectation altogether.
    • Advertising: They had a pug, a zoo-zoo and a catchy jingle / catchphrase as benchmarks to beat. What do they come up with? Flying balloons – lots of them! No wonder it made it to the bad set of the annual list of the best and the bekaar ads.

While it has got a number of things right, a couple of the above are real deal breakers. No network or frequent network disconnections and low speeds are going to turn off people even if they’ve subscribed into dirt-cheap prime plans. And it’s a matter of time before competition cuts their prices to a reasonable level and offers superior services.

Will voice services become a non-differentiator? Will data explosion start and / or continue with commencement of paid services of Jio? Will Jio be able to meet its grand 2021 vision of capturing more than 50% of the 3 lakh crore data market it is projecting ? A close watch on how these tactics by the incumbents and Jio play out through the rest of the year will give us a fair guesstimate.

Update (a day after this post ) :

Just as you thought the freebies won’t end, they’ve extended enrolment for prime till April 15th. This is probably because they could only enrol 72 million so far.

Then the free service goes on till July 1st. While they say this is to enable Jio customers to fully familiarise Jio customers with their services and enable digital payments for further purchases, I think the problem is somewhere else. 1 lakh towers will be added to the 1 lakh towers already existing in the coming months. There are “small pockets of congestion” on the network impacting service quality.

  • Ravindra Ramavath
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March 31, 2017 at 6:38 am Leave a comment

Jio – An Audacious Gamble or Bold Game-Changer ?

Our last post mentioned, “roll out of 4G LTE and imminent data price wars” in anticipation of the Reliance Jio launch. And, a couple of days before we posted the infographic, Jio opened up their ‘freedom offer’, which was restricted earlier, to everyone ; it’s now probably becoming the ‘welcome offer’.


jioplansMy interest in Jio was piqued the moment I saw tweets with screenshots, especially this one, of the data plan from ANI_News, which was live tweeting the AGM.  The reason was my current mobile plan. I use a Rs. 1,299* plan that my current mobile operator offers (with a discount of Rs.783, they call it a 3G promo offer) for which I get, “299 minutes of free talk time”, “200  free local sms” and “1GB data” on their 3G network. My primary reason for choosing this plan was the data pack. I calculated that I needed about 1 GB of mobile data for on-the-go occasions and for everything else, there was my unlimited home wi-fi of which I consume about 6-8 GB of data on my phone every month. Now, with the Rs.499-M plan of Jio, which is less than half of my current mobile plan, I can get 4x (and more) the data at 10x speeds. What’s more, I can do away with my home wi-fi connection! The only thing that stopped me from going in for a Jio connection earlier was that my mobile phone (Oneplus One, running CyanogenMod) wasn’t a device originally listed in their device FAQ.

jiolaunchThe moment the phone compatibility issue was taken care of with the Jio4g voice app, I was in the queue for a Jio SIM. The Aadhaar card based activation was a breeze and I had the Jio SIM about 30 minutes later – most of which were spent standing in the queue. Barring the face-to-face interaction with the Jio representative at the store, experience with Jio at other touchpoints hasn’t been satisfactory. I couldn’t get through to the Jio tollfree number easily to enquire about the compatibility of my phone on their network. When I did, I had to wait about 20 minutes and then talk to an untrained customer care associate who asked me what the, “brand name and model was for a Oneplus One” (even the rep at the store wasn’t that clear, all he said was, “if you’ve got an offer code on MyJio app, the phone works”).  Activation took about 3 days since the day I got the SIM, and I got to know about it only after another call to the tollfree number because the activation SMS didn’t reach me.

Having used the Jio network for almost a day now, the overall usage experience is nothing great to write home about. I couldn’t place any outgoing calls to numbers on other networks barring Jio ones and an MTNL landline. Calls from other networks, including MTNL, to a Jio number don’t go. While I could receive SMSes on the Jio number, the ones I sent out weren’t received on numbers on other networks. The much touted 4G data speed too wasn’t in sight. I was getting download speeds ranging between 60-500 kbps. There are also other minor niggles in the app which will hopefully be ironed out soon – the Jio4gvoice app is always on, draining the battery more than necessary and I found the 4g connection drops when I am on a wi-fi network.

While there is bound to be some confusion, delay and a few niggles with a new launch – especially one with such grand objectives , there are a few things that are a complete master stroke by Jio…

  1. Free welcome offer of 3 months (unlimited calls and internet):
    • Though they haven’t lived up to their promise of “5 minute walk-out-working” Aadhar based signup, people are willing to wait days for activation because everything is free as of now
    • It allows Jio to stress test their network with a lower number of users at higher usage before they ask more people to pay-up for less usage in about 3 months
    • If these users are delighted with the network (in all likelihood they’ll be, at least with the data network), the word of mouth they’ll generate is going to a huge marketing push
  2. Not porting numbers right now:
    • Though the FAQs say you can port, they aren’t doing it right now (or rather the Jio rep I met in the store told me so). Imagine the additional headache of training their entire team to answer additional porting questions from customers. Coordinating porting with other telecoms and then intimating date and time of porting to new customers. Worst still, service disruptions during the porting process lasting hours making thousands (or lakhs) of customers angry
    • I suspect, this is also probably forcing customers that are unwilling to let go of a number they’ve had for ages, to use Jio as a second network more for data than voice (and they have an “activate data only” option as well).
      • As an offshoot, in the near term, demand for low cost dual sim 4G phones is probably going to hit the roof
    • With the data from those using voice on Jio, Reliance can negotiate better with incumbents for more interoperation points and lower charges. Thereby providing better voice experience by the time they launch paid services in January 2017. (Read more about it here: “Jio supporting their demand for PoIs for 22 million users quoting 50 million call failures”, “TRAI set to reject higher interconnection charges from telcos”)
    • The other thing which I suspect is going to happen is that while Reliance Jio has full visibility of which networks people are coming from or going to switch from (thanks to the data they are collecting during the signup), the telecom operators are in the blind as to how many of their existing users are trying out Jio. Come 1st January, the blindsided operators, might lose millions of subscribers at one go.
  3. Possibly converting a whole segment of feature phone / pre-paid users to smartphone users :
    • This is just a hypothesis based on observations of those in queues at a few Jio stores. If the free voice calls and free SMS lures enough of those using features phones on pre-paid cards towards smartphones, and if they experiment with downloading music and video and are satisfied with the experience, and if a sufficient number continue on the Jio network after Jan 1st, then smartphone usage would have penetrated a whole new segment. Three big Ifs, I recognise, but the combination has the potential to be a game-changer.
    • Of course, a large chunk of these users may turn out to be shrewder / more value-conscious than we give them credit for and may stop consuming data for entertainment once they have to pay for it. They might yet continue with Jio for voice calls, in which case though Jio would have succeeded in switching users from competing networks, the task of changing their usage behaviour and increasing ARPUs would still remain. Worst case, if the voice connectivity on Jio networks is poor (as it is currently) , they may switch back to their old networks and it’ll be a bet gone horribly wrong – the mother of all promotional offers, one that induced a lot of free trial, but generated little conversion or loyalty.
  4. Having to install MyJio + Jio4gvoice apps to generate offer code prior to getting a SIM:
    • Even before Jio gives out the SIM, they have access to pretty much everything on a prospect’s phone – read and modify contacts, call log, calendar, sms, location – via this placeholder of an app called MyJio. Add Jio4gvioce, they can have everything else from your phone – identity (personal and device), camera, media (photos and everything else on your phone and sd card), microphone. Not many users in India are educated or knowledgeable about how much data an app can access and transmit.

Anyway, returning to our last post…

  • Price wars are imminent: Airtel has already cut prices. BSNL announced that it will match Reliance “tariff-by-tariff”. Vodafone and Idea are yet to announce their plans.
  • Mobile data consumption is set to explode: In the previous post, we mentioned that there are, “33.9 Million mobile users (~11% of total mobile internet users) who consume over 2 gigabytes of data per month”. Now, Reliance Jio claims, ‘the average monthly data consumption per user has exceeded 26 GB’ in April-June quarter and they had, ‘over 1.5 million test users’ even before the test launch.  That’s a 13x jump in average data consumption by a smart phone user! That might be the best case of course, but considering that one gets 4GB of daytime data and unlimited night time data over mobile networks and 8 GB over Jio public wi-fi hotspots, even in the Rs. 299 (pre-paid) and Rs.499 (post-paid) plans, these averages aren’t going to hold for long.  This might be the stimulus the telecom industry needs during a time when the average data ARPUs are falling  ( as data prices have largely remained constant while average ARPUs have been falling, my hypothesis is that new users being added aren’t consuming as much data).
  • Collateral damage – voice calls: There has been much acrimony already between Reliance and other operators. Reliance Jio has accused incumbent players like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone of not releasing sufficient inter-connection ports to terminate a voice call in another network (news report 1, 2). I think it’s a moot point because, eventually, people using Reliance Jio (or other networks matching Jio’s data prices) are going to be doing a lot more of VoIP and video calls.  Operators are not going to choke on incoming voice as they are currently claiming, they are going to choke on incoming data.
  • Collateral damage – entertainment apps: The SOP 5 with the Jio SIM is, “Install Jio Apps” and the MyJio app installs a Chat, Cinema, TV, Music, Magazine, News, Storage/Drive, Money, Fashion app. My hypothesis is all the lesser used or upcoming or limited content or me-too apps in these domains are going to really find it difficult to survive. I also think DTH operators are going to suffer a bit. I definitely don’t find it worthwhile to pay for a big bundled pack every month when I view only 1-2 hours of TV a week. If I can access those few shows online, I am definitely going to cast them on my TV and disconnect my DTH.
  • Data services as the imagery drivers: We also mentioned, “Indians are still more concerned about voice quality than data services” and that, “among smart phone users elsewhere, data speed is considered to be the most important factor in determining both network performance and satisfaction with an operator”. India is going to catch-up to this paradigm soon. The provider who has better data network and app content is eventually going to win and Reliance Jio has already built a huge lead in it.

The last time, Reliance launched a mobile network, it brought the voice prices down. Hope they do it for data now. All in all, exciting times ahead both for users and watchers.

By,

Ravindra Ramavath

 

September 13, 2016 at 8:38 am 1 comment

Mobile Penetration, Mobile Data Speed and Consumption in India

In this blog post, we mentioned that India is the #2 market in terms of Internet users behind China. But did you know that India was the #2 telecommunications market in terms of subscribers since 2008?

The telecom revolution stated in India on July 31st 1995 with a mobile call between the then WB chief minister, Jyoti Basu, and Union communications minister, Sukh Ram.  Since then, mobile phones have permeated everywhere in India. There are 1,036 million telecom subscribers, 97% of these being mobile subscribers. The urban mobile teledensity is a mind boggling 147, 3x higher than rural at 49 (overall mobile teledensity of 79.2).

With such high penetration numbers, every telecom operator is now turning towards data to increase revenues. The growing smartphone penetration in India, driven by cheap handsets is expected to fuel this. In 2016, smart phone shipments are expected to overtake that of feature phones with analysts pointing out factors that can drive the average price of a smartphone further down from Rs.10,700/- in 2015.

While users in India are still more concerned about voice quality than data services (and the leading telecom operator has tried to take the high ground on this aspect with the open network campaign), among smart phone users elsewhere, data speed is considered to be the most important factor in determining both network performance and satisfaction with an operator.

 

mobile

 

[Here’s a quick look at the data in the infographic above (2015 data) :

  • 1,010.9 million wireless telecom subscribers
  • 311.7 million wireless internet subscribers
    • 60% of these connections are on GPRS/Edge networks
    • 36% on 3G technologies such as HSPA/WCDMA
    • & only 0.8% of connections are on 4g networks technologies such as EVDO/CDMA/LTE
  • The average mobile connection speed was 1,016 kbps with…
    • … the average 2G speed at 77 kbps
    • … the average 3G speed at 1,932 kbps and
    • … the average 4G speed at 9,415 kbps
  • The average mobile-connected end-user device generated 149 megabytes of mobile data traffic per month
    • Average non-smartphone generated 49 megabytes of mobile data traffic
    • Average smartphone generated 430 megabytes of mobile data traffic per month
      • 9x more mobile data traffic per month than a basic handset
      • Within this, the average 4G smartphone generated 1,256 MB of traffic per month in 2015, compared to 430 MB for non-4G smartphones.
    • Average tablet generated 1,671 megabytes of mobile data traffic per month
      • 34x more mobile data traffic per month than a basic handset
  • There are an estimated 239 million mobile connected smartphones, 23.9% of device connections, and they generated 69.1% of total mobile traffic
    • Incidentally, India has overtaken Japan to become the world’s third largest smartphone market
  • There are 3.8 million tablets, 0.4% of device connections generating 4.2% of total mobile traffic
  • In India, mobile video traffic is estimated to grow 20.8-fold from 2015 to 2020, a compound annual growth rate of 83%.
  • Currently, web and other data applications generate about 48% of mobile data traffic, Video generates 40% , streaming audio generates 10% and file-sharing the balace 2% of India’s mobile data traffic
  • Currently web browsing, emailing and social networking are the top three internet activities on smartphones ]

 

What these numbers tell you is that Indians are embracing the internet on the mobile, not PC. And this mobile Internet is currently work and social networking related. Going forward it will be increasingly video.

However, the quantum of consumption is still low. For example, the 430 MB consumed at an average speed of 2.643 kbps by an average smartphone on an average mobile connection is good enough to stream about half a movie in SD quality from Netflix. And, if you are going to use a social network like Facebook exclusively, it will last you about 4-5 hours (1 -2 MB per minute). These are of course averages. There is always the pareto principle, 33.9 Million mobile users (~11% of total mobile internet users) consume over 2 gigabytes of data per month. And it is from survey of these users, that you hear the hype about mobiles and apps.

The next few years are going to be exciting in this space, launch of multiple high spec smartphones at Rs.10,000 price points, roll out of 4G LTE (and imminent data price wars) and better last mile connectivity  will further fuel mobile data consumption.

{The Cisco, Ericsson, CMI and TRAI reports are sources for this article and infographic, and can be accessed at the links given.}

  • Ravindra Ramavath

September 8, 2016 at 3:05 pm Leave a comment


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