Some thoughts about Airtel Broadband
Bharti Televentures is the fixed line operator business of Airtel. In the recent branding exercise, all the services have been offered under the Airtel brand. Data is the next driver for growth. This is clear to the operators who have belatedly realized the implications for having a pie in all the segments of telecommunications. Hence Bharti ventured in the broadband market.
However, the main contention in the broadband market is the price offering which includes the bandwidth costs as well as the cost of laying down the copper wire. Typically, in the mentality of the profit making exercise, Airtel has so far focused only in those areas where it perceives that a huge market is present. However, I still hold that their thrust should be in smaller towns and cities where BSNL would ultimately usurp their potential customer base. It seems that their fancily paid MBAs haven’t really understood the success of BSNL who focused on the B and C class cities where it has drawn unparalleled support despite the lousy customer experiences. This is because of the absence of any other operator.
The current offerings by Airtel does not really enthuse a potential customer who is looking at sustained data transfer. It is the classic case of having something better than nothing. I fail to understand the voice pulses being bundled with the internet access. What if one doesn’t want that? Why is that we have to pay for the same? Its one thing to have multiple tariffs to offer people with different usage patterns. However, these tariffs on the website seek to confuse more than a guide for signing up. Do the big bosses think that people use broadband to check emails?
Add to the lousy customer care that Airtel is slowly perfecting, it is staffed with people who usually land up in their jobs with little idea of their job profile. The so-called Tech engineers have often been unable to help a customer who is facing issues with the connectivity. I have read first person accounts for the same.
The man behind the company himself, Sunil Bharti commented in the media that since the BSNL s local loop was not thrown open to the private players, they have to realign their plans to spread out to other areas. Indeed, they are eyeing other areas in Punjab again focusing on those areas where supposedly people would fall over each other to sign up for the broadband.
If Mr.Bharti is so much concerned about BSNL’s local loop or infrastructure, why doesn’t he let other ISP s use his infrastructure for a price? This would lower down the tariffs and would ideally promote healthy competition to provide affordable access to people. Yet they are not even thinking of using their local loop to optimal advantage for themselves!
I believe that broadband access could be provided in a manner, which can benefit the customer and the provider. There ought to be a single flat price for the access with the charges levied for value added services like games or broadcasting television channels. The plain vanilla Internet access can be provided at high speeds, say at 512 kbps or more. Once the download limits are exceeded, the speeds could drop to say 256 or 128 kbps. This seems more logical and rational. Since I have not subscribed to Airtel broadband, I would not be in a position to comment on the user experiences for the same.
I believe that Bharti can easily scale down the prices since they own their network as well as the gateway in Chennai. Why they have not done so is beyond my reasoning. Perhaps they want to milk the customers before anyone else does so. In fact after the announcement of BSNL and subsequent “price war”, Airtel introduced a me too scheme. All in the name of customer interest and providing superior customer experience! Perhaps they have mastered the sweet lingo and are always full of mouthing platitudes.
I sincerely hope that broadband scene improves. At least we ought not to be at their mercy or shoddy customer services, which invariably come as a part of the package.