Navendu is an Ola cab driver who has three mobile handsets and uses them daily simultaneously. On being questioned why he needs three smartphones, he replies: “Well, I use two for the cab service apps Ola and Uber as I drive for both. While one is an Airtel the other is Vodafone.” When asked about the third he says: “That’s the new Reliance 4G service phone, it’s for personal use. When I don’t receive network on either I turn on the hotspot as connectivity on these two is very bad as you may know bhaiyya.”
Aptly sums up the problem faced by innumerable citizens of the national capital region who face difficulty getting good reception and end up getting low internet speeds while they pay a premium for internet. People had high hoes when Airtel launched its 4G service but it turned out to be a huge disappointment with low network coverage and inconsistent internet speeds.
Forget about 4G. Vibhor Dogra, an IT professional and a resident of Shanti Niketan in Delhi, complains that while Airtel provides more than 10 mbps speeds in Vasant Vihar area, it fails to provide even 5 mbps in his area. Repeated complaints have not borne any results and he wishes to change his service provider to either Vodafone or Reliance Jio depending on better connectivity. Rahul Chowdhury who has his own production house in Gurgaon says that after getting fed up with the services of Airtel 4G, he recently bought a Reliance Jio wi-fi devices for his start-up.
Surprisingly, people are opting for state-owned telecom company BSNL’s exciting internet package which offers 20 GB of 3G data at Rs 50 over Airtel 4g. Arvind Singh, an entrepreneur who works out of NCR Noida explains why he opted for BSNL over Airtel: “The data can be shared with 4 other BSNL users residing anywhere across the nation. The connection is better than Airtel 4G which hardly ever gives 4G speeds. And it’s much, much cheaper.” The scheme is being subsidized by Government of India, and is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of Digital India.
Narada News decided to conduct a survey to find out the ground realities. We interviewed 72 people over a span of a week and found out that 15-18% Airtel customers are switching to Reliance 4g, 4% to other service providers as a result of bad service experience. More that 10% of these people were using post paid connections of Airtel. Only 5-7% Vodafone customers were switching switching to Reliance Jio; the most mentioned reason stated was word of mouth communication of experience using better services of Reliance Jio. 2% of these numbers formed the post paid users of Vodafone.
The new customers of Reliance Jio believe it could be better than other service providers in the market. Radhakrishnan TD states: “I’ve been using Reliance Jio for a week and find the internet speed and network availability better. I ran a test for net speed and realized its better than Airtel and Vodafone. And I have moved around Delhi a few places with the smartphone and received 4G network everywhere I went.”
However, some new customers of Reliance Jio are only using the service for mobile data use and not for calling. “It’s cheap,” says Neelambari Perumal standing outside the store with her new Reliance Jio handset. Other people like her are still using Airtel and Vodafone for regular voice calls. rAnother drawback is that Reliance not offering many options of smartphone devices with its connection. The iPhone still does not figure on their lineup. One major apprehension that new Relaince Jio customers have is that once earlier the mobile services from Reliance flopped miserably.
If Airtel fails to pick up its game, it might find itself in the position Reliance Communication did some years ago. Apart from the slow internet speeds, customers of Airtel also complained of frequent call drops. In a move to counter Reliance Jio, telecom major Bharti Airtel has slashed 4G and 3G mobile internet charges by up to 80 per cent to as low as Rs 51 per gigabyte (GB) under a special scheme.
Let’s wait and watch how the how the mobile network providers fight it out for customers in this highly competitive market.