Idea Cellular expects 7-fold increase in data consumption in one year

Idea Cellular, one of India’s top telecom companies, is working with the assumption that its users will increase their data consumption from the present level of around 2.2 GB per month per head to 15 GB per month by next year, CEO Himanshu Kapania said.

“Idea is planning on a business model of 15 GB per user in the year 2018. We are not talking about 20 or 22,” Kapania said at the India Mobile Congress in Delhi.

The statement is a big departure for Kapania, who had, in 2014, said his company is unlikely to deploy 4G services for in the next two to three years.

Pointing out that 4G is launched when 3G penetration reaches 50% or so, he had then predicted India will not be ready for LTE for some time.

“With India’s per-capita income, we cannot afford expensive LTE, both in terms of equipment cost and handsets. It is only when the adoption around the world reaches billions of customers, when the overall ecosystem becomes far more favorable in terms of equipment supply as well devices that LTE should be launched,” he had said at the time.

However, when Reliance Jio soft-launched its services a year after the above statement was made, Idea displayed remarkable agility to roll-out a 4G network at breakneck speed, in the process overtaking No.2 operator Vodafone.

Another assumption it seems to have abandoned is that it doesn’t need to target high-volume data users — people who used their wireless connection to consume GBs and GBs of data.

With Reliance Jio offering 28 GB at a price of Rs 309, Idea laying hands on some heavy-duty spectrum and a merger on the works with Vodafone, the company seems to have reexamined its position.

“The expectations of consumers are completely of a different order now,” said Kapania. “This was unimaginable in the past, but is a reality in today’s world.”

The company has so far been successful in driving consumption.

In just three months from April to June, for example, the average consumption of data on the company’s network jumped to 2.2 GB per month from 957 MB per month as the company slashed its prices by more than half.

Kapania’s new estimate of 15 GB per head per month is even more aggressive than that of Mukesh Ambani, who, at least initially, seemed to be working with a 10 GB per month estimate. At present, the average consumption of data on the Jio network is just short of the 10 GB mark.

In July this year, Kapania said that despite the strong growth in traffic, only 30% of his 4G network capacity was being utilized. By March next year, he said, Idea’s expanded capacity will be enough to cater to a 10 times the data traffic he was seeing at the time due to expansions.