Bharti Airtel says open to partnering with cable operators for broadband

Bharti Airtel today said that it was ‘open to’ partnering with cable operators to get access to last mile connections to customers for its broadband service.

“We would be open to looking at partnerships to expand our access to the last mile,” said CEO Gopal Vittal.

The comment came in the context of Reliance Jio snapping up Hathway Datacom and Den Networks, two of the country’s largest cable feed providers.

Bharti Airtel has been upgrading its copper-based network to a fiber-based play in the context of Reliance Jio getting ready to launch its GigaFiber IPTV and broadband service in the coming months.

Reliance Jio has a target of acquiring 50 mln customers for its wired services.

In comparison, Bharti Airtel has 2.21 mln customers, most of whom are on copper.

However, said Vittal, the company is rolling out its fiber network fast.

Within the first six months of the current financial year, he said, the ‘coverage’ of the fiber network has been increased by 1 mln homes (not all of which are customers).

That, said Vittal, is equal to the expansion of the wired broadband service in the whole of last year. All expansion, he said, is now happening on fiber.

Vittal said his company is focusing on the low-hanging fruit of multistorey buildings like apartments for expanding the fiber network.

At present, Airtel offers 250 GB of data at speeds of up to 100 Mbps in Delhi, one of the markets where fiber penetration is very high.

CABLE PLAY

It has been speculated that the company could make a ‘counter offer’ to local cable operators in an effort to expand its fiber broadband service.

Cable operators are likely to decide which operator to go with based on the financial support and other terms and conditions offered.

In case of Jio, for example, the company is likely to offer to lay the fiber optic cable at its own cost, instead of demanding that the local operator also share the cost.

Cable operators would also look at what kind of commission or revenue share they will get from each broadband subscriber on their upgraded network.

It also possible that the target has upgraded based on the acquisition of two large cable networks in recent days — Den Networks and Hathway Datacom.

The two cable networks alone have 750 cities between them.

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