Reliance Q1, 2013 results possibly holds out light to the beleagured Indian Telecom Industry in terms of the business case. It signals the end of hypercompetitive era (and operator bleed), end of consumer sops (change of direction to quality of acquisition), increasing data revenue (that was inevitability catching up), Eco-system consolidation across Operators, ISPs, VAS providers and building alliances and emergence of EVDO +GSM devices.
1. RCOM has reported today 7.2 million 3G subscribers and 29.4 million data connections for the quarter ending March 31, 2012, and a 21% increase in data traffic quarter on quarter.
2. RCOM increased tariff’s by 20% on both GSM and CDMA. Reduced promotional offers by 65%, and are reducing discounted plans.
3. RCOM is trying to create a healthy ecosystem, forging relationships with leading global plans, and entering into exclusive partnerships with social media networks. RCOM has tied up with leading handset manufactuers for CDMA smartphones. RCOM entered into an exclusive arrangement with Lenovo. Phones will be attractively priced and work on CDMA and GSM, allowing switching calls between the two, based on the strength and quality of the signal.
4. There is also an exclusive partnership with Google, and RCOM announced partnerships with Whatsapp, Twitter in India. Twitter and RCOM has launched a Reliance Twitter access pack.
5. RCOM will move 9500 employees to partner roles.
2G is inking GSM Intracircle roaming arrangements. The first such agreement is with Aircel. These will increase RCOM’s national 2G footprint by 10,000 base stations. All other agreements will be completed by the second quarter of this financial year
6. The RCOM-Reliance Jio deal. Jio will utilize fibre across RCOM’s intercity fibre optics network. IT will have reciprocal access to Reliance Infocomm’s infrastructure in the future. This is the ‘first’ such agreement between the two companies (which means that more deals are being discussed).
7. Industry is facing virtual consolidation. Pricing power is coming back, and there are improvements in RPM. RCOM is rationalizing Prepaid tariffs, by removing free minutes and improving tariffs by 20%.
8. Revenue contribution of data- Wireless growth is 2.5%, but the growth of GSM and Data businesses are growth engines. 64% of wireless revenue for RCOM. One year ago, it was 59%, moving up 500 basis points as a contribution of GSM and Data.
Quoting Mr.Gurdeep Singh (President CEO, Wireless Business, Reliance Communication)
We changed course and aligned go to market strategy to as 3G metro, 3G lit markets and non-3G markets, relooking pricing, branding, distribution, and kept the go to market elements differently for all three markets. Quarter on quarter of GSM+Data is going up. We had consciously taken a call that CDMA network will be a high speed data network, by being a dominant player in the dongle market, and make an effort to bring branded handsets into the smartphone market. We will make efforts with HTC and Blackberry, and another few announcements are planned. What’s good about CDMA device ecosystem is that it is CDMA+GSM.
We don’t rule out rolling out EVDO+GSM phones.
The GSM + Data has grown 6% quarter on quarter in terms of revenues. We have been ahead of the industry growth in this segment in the last 3 quarters. We gained 100 basis points in revenue market share, and have an accelerated growth path. A large part of the revenue comes from 2G Internet (GPRS), and in light of some operators who have given up spectrum in some circles, which is increasing opportunity for RCOM in these circles. We’re seeing traction in that direction. GSM+data, the growth will be on data.
We’re not late with the ICR arrangements. Now that the hypercompetitive stage is behind, there is a good reason for us to consolidate our position. We’ll be smart enough to go for revenue corridor, data corridor. We want to get to the market quickly, make a good case to deploy our own assets.
2300 MHz needs far more sites than a 2G footprint, should Reliance Jio have an ambition to be a pan-India operators. Ours is a large portfolio of towers, and many of the towers in the main cities are fibre-ised.
We are in advanced stages of discussions to lease out towers to Reliance Jio.Our objective is to migrate customers to CDMA smartphones in the CDMA segment. We’ve raised prices of CDMA handsets. The attempt is to get a better quality customer. We’ll see the complete bleed stopping in CDMA in the next two quarters. The bleed is coming to a stagnation, and it will contribute as we populate more CDMA smartphone users.Growth in GSM+data will outperform the market.
Inevitability finally catches up with the new comers in the Indian Telecom space. It is a no brainer to see that a market with 15 players will not have space for the bottom listers. Thus new entrants are beginning to scale down the roll out plans and shying away from reducing the tariffs further. With 14-15 Telcos jostling for share of the consumer purse, consolidation is now setting into the Indian Telecom markets. In most circles, only about 6 operators continue to sustain market momentum. The Top 6 players account for 90% of the market shares by subscriptions and higher shares by value.
The intensity of competition is coming down visibly. Some of the new entrants in the telecoms market have not rolled out networks in many geographies despite being granted spectrum. All new entrants – with the exception of Sistema – are under probe by both the Central Vigilance Commission as well as the Prime Minister’s office for delaying the rollout of their operations. While it has been close to three years since these firms bagged their license, Etisalat DB is yet to launch commercial services, Loop Mobile has started services only in Mumbai while Videocon has launched mobile services in only in five of the 22 circles. Even Uninor and S Tel, the other new entrants, have failed to meet all their rollout obligations. Many new entrants did not bid for 3G and broadband spectrum. All this are tell-tale signs that consolidation has started in the minds of companies.
Consolidation has also started in the minds of customers. Even in this crowded market, six operators now account for almost the entire revenue market share, indicating that customers have learnt to recognise bigger, more established, stronger and better brands. The increase in minutes of usage for larger mobile companies is proof that only certain players are present in the minds of consumer. The top six players have an unique advantage as they have a larger and longer brand recall. The top 3 Telcos have registered increases in the minutes of usage in the quarter.
Tata DoCoMo, Telenor and MTS set off a savage tariff war last year when they entered the Indian market. This resulted in a fall in profits and revenues of all operators. But the rate of growth posted by these companies slowed substantially in the last quarter. Uninor, STel, Loop, Etisalat DB, Videocon, and Sistema together added less than 12% of 18 million customer additions in June. This is in sharp contrast to last year’s numbers when Uninor added a million users within 30 days of launch. STel managed to clock one million subscribers in 90 days from three small circles. While Videocon added 1.39 million users in May, it could add only a third of that in June. The new entrants together account for less than 3% of India’s 600 million mobile users.
With 10 million and more subscriptions happening per month, The Indian Telecom Market is the largest growing Telecom market in the world. However, Telco after Telco have made the mistake of entering the Indian Market without a proper and thought through strategy. The three pronged strategy basis volumes from 10 million subscriptions, ARPU from Data services and high end customers from MNP has not really worked. MNP has not kicked in yet, and moreover, the incumbents today have the scale, information and cumulative resources to dig deep into the consumer wallets. The Challengers in this scenario were required to out-innovate, not out-run the market by larger marketing dollars and cheaper call rates. That unfortunately has not been the forte of the Videocons, Etisalats and Telenors of the world. Reminds me of an old blog post on the merits of MNOs/MVNOs. There still is space in that corner, but the new Telcos need to re-look at their complete thought, perspective and the revenue generation dynamics.