India is expected to have 9 crore 4G subscribers and 18 crore 4G smartphones by 2018 and Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular will gain from this growth if Reliance Jio Infocomm delays the launch of its 4G services, says a report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofA-ML).
“We expect the 4G India smartphone base to jump from 5 million in FY 2015 to 180 million (18 crores) by FY 2018, leading to 4G subscribers accelerating from almost zero in FY 2016 to 90 million (9 crores) by FY 2018,” a report by BoFA ML research analysts Sachin Salgaonkar, Karan Parmanandka and Simon Dong-je Woo said.
In next few years, there will be a marginal difference between 3G and 4G tariffs as well as there will be a decline in smartphone prices that may lead 2G subscribers leapfrog to 4G services and skip 3G, analysts expect..
The analysts said that the big three players – Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular – will gain if Reliance Jio Infocomm commercial 4G service launch is delayed. “With all the big 3 telcos expected to have rolled out 4G selectively in key urban areas before March 2016 we expect their top-end (high usage) consumers to migrate to 4G.
“This, in our view, will make it difficult for Jio to poach these subscribers as the company would need to focus on offering a differentiated service,” it added. As per the last update from Reliance Jio, the company has not changed its position to launch its service in December as committed by chairman Mukesh Ambani.
Analysts said 4G tariffs are expected to come down with the launch of Reliance Jio 4G services, but they do not see lower pricing strategy to be a sustainable offering by Jio to poach the subscribers.
Bharti Airtel has commercially launched 4G service in 296 cities with 35,000 base stations and 4G tariffs at 3G prices. Vodafone has announced to launch 4G commercial service in some cities by December and Idea in 10 circles by June.
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