Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd’s investments in Hathway Cable & Datacom Ltd and Den Networks Ltd could be significant in kick-starting the home broadband space in India. The company has acquired 66 percent stake in Den and 51.3 percent in Hathway. The acquisition of stakes in both these companies will help Reliance Jio ramp up the coverage for its own high speed home broadband network, Jio GigaFiber, across India.
Jio has already started work on connecting 50 million homes across 1,100 cities in the country. There are significant numbers at play here. The newest investments mean Reliance Jio will now be able to utilize the local cable operator (LCO) network that currently distributes Hathway and Den broadband connections—according to official numbers, there are as many as 27,000 LCOs which currently work with Hathway and Den.
This could provide a big boost to the home broadband space in India, which currently is in a dismal state. According to the latest numbers by internet speed analysis firm Ookla, the global average download speed for home broadband is 49.26Mbps and the global average upload speed is 24.20Mbps. The ranking puts India at number 66 out of a total of 130 countries, with the average download speed of 25.02Mbps and an average upload speed of 20.78Mbps. The investments and the access to last mile connectivity infrastructure will provide competition to existing broadband players, including Airtel Broadband, Spectra and TataSky Broadband.
These LCOs will provide Reliance Jio access to as many as 24 million homes already, across 750 cities where Hathway and Den offer broadband connections. Now, Reliance Jio will be able to offer upgrades to all these homes, with Jio GigaFiber broadband connections as well as the Jio Smart-Home solutions and television connections.
“With Local Cable Operators now as part of the Jio ecosystem, we look forward to bringing Jio’s advanced Jio GigaFiber and Smart Home Solutions to more Indian homes, even quicker. We look forward to welcoming other MSOs and LCOs to be part of this partnership. This will result in growing wireline data connectivity in India and making state-of-the-art high- speed affordable internet and digital services accessible to the widest population in the shortest possible time,” says Mukesh D. Ambani, Chairman & Managing Director, Reliance Industries Ltd. RIL had in July unveiled its fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) broadband plans, under the Jio GigaFiber umbrella.
Jio’s Smart Home solutions, in addition to high speed broadband connections, will include Ultra High Definition (UHD) television connections for homes, smart gadget connectivity for homes, multi-party video conferencing for homes as well as artificially intelligent virtual assistants.
Hathway currently has a broadband subscriber base in 16 cities while Den has a subscriber base in 28 Indian cities. By tapping into the existing fibre networks laid out by Hathway and Den, and not just the existing subscriber base that may be willing to upgrade to the value added services that Jio GigaFiber will offer, RIL will probably be able to roll out services to more subscribers quicker. The fact that UHD television services will be a part of the Jio GigaFiber will allow RIL to compete with direct-to-home (DTH) services such as Dish TV, TataSky and Airtel Digital TV.
However, there will be one big challenge that RIL will face with the existing Hathway and Den networks could be the older technology they may be using in certain regions. For instance, the cables laid out in certain areas could be potentially limited to a lower broadband speed than other areas, and such cases may require further investment before services are rolled out.
Disclaimer: Reliance Industries Ltd, which owns Jio, is the sole beneficiary of Independent Media Trust which controls Network18 Media & Investments Ltd.