Families in home quarantine due to Covid-19, increased dependency on social media to stay connected and indefinite work from home have pushed demand for mobile phone data and fibre-to-home (FTTH), popularly known as home Wi-Fi.
“There has been a sharp increase in demand in FTTH by consumers as work from home is declared in most companies and families now depend on the internet more than ever,” said Rajesh Chharia, president of the Internet Service Providers’ Association of India.
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Industry executives estimate a 50-60% surge in broadband data consumption over the past two months. There are 22 million wired, or fixed-line, broadband subscribers in India, with Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio Infocomm and state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. among the major providers.
“Our networks are fully ready to serve the requirements of our customers and keep India connected. This has been demonstrated since the onset of the pandemic. Our teams are working round the clock to ensure seamless services,” Airtel said in response to ET’s queries.
Airtel said its FTTH network now covers over 200 cities and it is provisioning connections of up to 1 Gbps on demand from customers. Jio and Vodafone Idea did not respond to ET’s queries.
Telcos have noticed that the increase in data consumption depends on location.
“Metros like Delhi and Mumbai, which have seen many migrants move back to their home states, are seeing a data spike of about 10% but there is a 15% increase in data consumption in states like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where a large chunk of the migrants come from,” said a senior telecom executive.
With over 2.8 million active Covid-19 cases on Monday, many states have imposed restrictions on activities, including lockdowns and curfews and many offices in central business districts have downed shutters. Although telecom remains an essential service, there’s been a drop in recharges at retail stores as more people remain housebound.
Airtel’s mobile data consumption is estimated at 16.9 GB per user per month for the January-March quarter, according to a report by Emkay. Rivals Jio and Vi should see 13.1 GB and 12.4 GB, respectively, for the same period.
Assuming an average of 14.1 GB in the fourth quarter, data consumption may rise by 10%-15% or more in the April-June period, analysts said.
“This time around, we are seeing families coming down with Covid in one shot. The isolation means all requirements are met via home broadband services and mobile data. Plus, there is IPL going on as well and many are streaming it,” said another telecom executive.
In March-April last year, there was a 30% surge in data consumption after the national lockdown came into force.