The impending growth of digital assets will present India with many unique opportunities to leapfrog its traditional deficit in physical infrastructure. It will help enhance the economic conditions in remote areas, spur new businesses by enabling access for a large number of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), creating a strong digital identity for the country. Above all, digital infrastructure growth can empower the government to embrace and enable innovation, provide resources to help increase agricultural productivity as well as enable improved healthcare access for rural areas, potentially reducing mortality levels. It can also bring financial services to the unbanked rural and underprivileged communities and help fulfil the country’s longstanding goal of ‘education for all’.
However, India has skipped a generation in telecom technology—going from no connectivity to over 350 million mobile Internet users—in less than two decades. Still Most of the users in this segment are still stuck with traditional cables and not fibre optics, the speed at which internet connection is made possible is at a mere 500 kbps or 1 Mbps. Even if an operator uses fibre optics for transmission within their main distribution systems, what determines whether you’ll get a decent speed on your home WiFi is the ‘last mile’ – i.e. the connection between the local exchange and your home.
For most fibre optic broadbands, the last mile consists of copper phone lines, but for cable broadband, it’s made of coaxial cable – which can carry data far faster than copper, since it experiences less loss in speed over distances. The current broadband setups, however they might have implemented their optical fibre network, still feature a fibre cable till the main building after which copper connections are used, thus resulting in a reduced internet speed than what was expected.
How Jio changes everything
Jio Giga Fiber will thus differentiate from other broadband players mainly due to the installation of this fibre optic cable. Instead of traditionally setting up fibre optic cables up to your local street cabinet, Jio will be installing a Fiber to the Home(FTTH) broadband service. This will bring the fibre optic line right to the local home connection or modem allowing users to enjoy high-speed connectivity with minimum loss of speeds during transmission from the exchange to your home.
Jio’s technology will not only bring faster internet connectivity but will also continue to improve with the latest technology. This upgrade in features wouldn’t need you fibre networks to be changed post installation as Jio says the company will “upgrade them with the latest technology that creates the electronic light pulses and not by replacing the fibre cables”. Jio with its Giga Fiber technology will not only welcome broadband system but also several other services including the ability to call through a landline and also set up GigaTV which will be based on the wired internet connection.
How does this effect BSNL?
Facing the largest competitor of Jio’s latest offering is market leader BSNL which has been operating mostly on ADSL-based traditional cables. The State-run telecom operator did take the wrappers off its own version of an FTTH broadband scheme but the setup is only been rolling out for users in a select few circles, compared to the 1,100 cities Jio is planning to strike on. Barring the area of the rollout, BSNL also takes a step back in offering lower speeds than Jio’s fibre network as it ‘promises’ to provide users with up to 50 Mbps data speeds in contrast to Jio’s 100Mbps speeds.
However, BSNL will be countering Jio’s efforts in other ways and is already offering 500GB & 750GB of monthly data for Rs 777 and Rs 1,277, all of which will be available at 50Mbps. That’s significantly more than Jio’s 100GB a month that it’ll provide for 90 days initially. The company also recently announced a Rs 491 broadband plan which offers 20GB of data per day for a month as well as unlimited calls in hopes of tackling Jio’s latest offering. For a plan that cheap, BSNL’s equivalent of a 600GB download limit is still way higher than what Jio is offering on an initial basis.
Jio is also charging an initial fee of Rs 4,500 as a deposit for installing a GigaHub Home Gateway device which it plans to do so as part of the largest greenfield fixed-line broadband rollout and it only remains to be seen how much more wealthy the company will be for an initial charge of that amount.
Is Airtel V-Fiber still relevant in the business?
Airtel announced its Vectorized fibre technology dubbed as V-Fiber aimed at delivering high speeds of up to 100Mbps. While providing high speeds were never a concern with the Bharti Airtel-run company, the offers never seemed to be compelling enough for users to just go out and opt for Airtel’s broadband service. The two popular plans in this division are the Rs 1,099 and Rs 1,299 WiFi Plans where Airtel offers 250GB and 350GB for a month respectively with options to opt for data rollover facility in case some data does unused. With not much to lose in terms of speed offerings, the only way Airtel could be challenged is of Jio pulls up aggressive pricing for its own plans.
Getting Airtel V-Fiber
One problem with V-Fiber, or for that matter fiber internet connections from ACT Broadband, is that they are not available widely. This is also a problem that is going to be with JioGigaFiber. In India, most internet connections are still using copper cables for the last mile connectivity. This is because copper cables, which are also used for landline phone connectivity, are plenty and cheap. The network of landline phone cables is well-established. The fiber connectivity, especially when a company is going to offer speed of 100mbps or more, requires that last mile connectivity should use optical fiber cables.
Surprisingly — and it is a pleasant surprise — Airtel V-Fiber uses end-to-end fiber cable. The cable, which you put in the Airtel-supplied optical network terminal inside your home, uses a wire made of glass (optical fiber) and so does the Airtel cable that connects to the networking hub somewhere outside your house. The result is that the stability of network and the speed is fantastic, at least on paper. But I get ahead of myself. Let’s first talk of how you can get V-Fiber.
First of all, you need to find out if V-Fiber is available in your area or not. If it is available, getting a new connection is easy. All you have to do is call up the Airtel call centre and tell them that you want V-Fiber. Someone from Airtel customer teams will get in touch with you and then come to your home to check the feasibility of V-Fiber.
Once you have registered to get V-Fiber and have paid the money, Airtel representative will lay down a fiber cable from your house to the nearest networking hub. In case you are in a high-rise residential apartment building, chances are that this hub will be outside your house, around 5 to 10 metres away from your door. If you are living in a housing colony, it will be close to your house. The closer the hub, better are the chances of good speed.
Once your house has the fiber cable installed, a separate team from Airtel will visit to fit the router and the optical network terminal. And to make the connection functional. The router, which also creates Wi-Fi network in the house, is free from Airtel. Although, chances are that you will end up getting a cheap one from the company. If you are opting for a 40mbps connection, you may get a single band router made by D-Link or — god forbid — Binatone or similar brand. For 100mbps connection, Airtel last year gave me a dual-band router made by TotoLink (A2004NS).
Reliance’s Jio Fiber project has been in development for a few years now with pilot programs running across select areas in the country. As the wide rollout of the Giga Fiber network is awaited, it’s safe to say that Jio’s entry will clearly spark competition in the broadband business and boost India’s global ranking among fixed broadband lines from 134 to higher levels. With more competition and focus on customers being the prime selling point, it’ll come down to which operator offers the best volume-speed-price combo in the future.