As per latest data by the regulator, Airtel’s RMS is just over 31%, compared with around 37.5% for Vodafone and Idea combines, and 14.5% for Reliance Jio. Analysts estimate that around 400-450 bps RMS of the Vodafone-Idea combined entity could be vulnerable amid likely network disruption during integration of the two telcos. The merger is widely expected to close by May.
Airtel’s efforts to garner additional RMS are likely to be backed by aggressive pricing offers, incentives for distributors and retailers, high decibel marketing campaigns and higher network capex infusions, the people said.
Airtel is likely to splurge Rs 24,000 crore on capex in FY19 — well over the Rs 16,000 crore in FY18 — primarily to bolster 4G networks, drive digitisation and ramp up its content play to ring-fence and grow its share of high-paying data customers in a fiercely competitive telecom market, one of the people said.
MD Gopal Vittal and chief operating officer Ajai Puri have been travelling extensively across states to enthuse Airtel circle heads and field teams to go flat out to achieve RMS gains and fight off Reliance Jio Infocomm’s moves for the same Vodafone-Idea user base.
Airtel’s leadership is learnt to have told its operations and marketing teams to keep the company’s 2G, 3G and 4G networks in top shape and competitive tariff plans ready to target Idea and Vodafone customers who, the market leader believes, will be dissatisfied with coverage, post-merger, especially since merging carriers invariably see network turbulence in the initial months, often resulting in disruptions and a potential decline in coverage quality.