Convergence Plus
Sunday, August 9, 2020
BSNL trade unions set to go on lunch-hour protest on October 1

BSNL executive union blames FinMin for delaying revival package. BSNL’s unions and associations have called for a “lunch-hour demonstration” on October 1 to protest against salary delay and non-payment of wages to contract workers. The protest is also against the total ban on capital expenditure, along with other issues related to the revival of BSNL, union officials told BusinessLine.

The unions that are expected to take part in the protest include BSNL Employees’ Union, Sanchar Nigam Executives’ Association (SNEA), All-India BSNL Executives’ Association (AIBSNLEA), and All-India BSNL Officers’ Association, among others.

Unions and associations want the government – the principal employer and owner of the company – to pay salaries in case BSNL is not able to raise the funds. The unions’ demands include allotment of 4G spectrum and land monetisation, payment of salary on due date by BSNL or the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), payment to contract workers, and electricity and rental charges.

The demands also include the implementation of third-pay revision, financial support for loss-making rural exchanges, extention of soft loan to BSNL, among others.

The payment of pension contribution by BSNL, as per the government rule, is also part of the lunch-hour demonstration.

In February, BSNL employees across the country went on a three-day strike (February 18, 19 and 20) demanding allocation of 4G spectrum and government approvals for the loan.

BSNL is staring at another salary delay, with the ailing telecom firm expected to credit employees’ wages for September after a delay of 15-20 days.

This would be the fourth time the company would be missing the due date.

BSNL had paid the August salary after a lag of 18 days, while July wages were footed on August 5 after February salary paid later in March. The employees are expected to move BSNL management, through various unions, seeking early disbursal of salary.

As per company policy, salaries are credited on the last working day of every month. BSNL’s salary expenses come to about ₹750-850 crore, as the firm employs 1,63,902 personnel, of which, 46,597 are executives and 1,17,305 non-executives. (The Hindu BusinessLine)

Apple iPhone 11 review: A few less features for a lot less money

It isn’t surprising that the iPhone 11 has been flying off the shelves in India even before it got to the stores. Online pre-orders were snapped up so promptly that one can see the confidence customers place in the Apple brand and the specific product. The iPhone 11’s predecessor, iPhone XR, did so well it gave Apple a leap ahead in market share.

That phone will still be available and is Rs 39,999 for the base model in some places online right now but of course there are customers picking up the brand new iPhone 11 at Rs 64,900 (base model) and a lot less depending on the scheme one chooses.

The iPhone 11 is a smartphone that feels rather substantial in the hand. It weights 194 gms and certainly is not for those looking for a feather-light slim phone. Instead it’s for someone who likes the solidity and reassurance of a good build.

iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro?
If you have the money set aside for a really expensive phone or if someone else is generously paying for it, you will naturally be wondering which of the iPhones to choose. The two iPhone Pro models are almost identical to each other except for size and a scaling down of such things as battery and screen to go with the size. They’re the two more advanced models. That doesn’t meant thought hat you should feel cheated out of something major by opting for the iPhone 11.

There are a few design differences between the iPhone 11 and the iPhone 11 Pro models. The iPhone 11 has no smaller version so you don’t have the choice of getting a more easy-to-hold device if you opt for it. You do have a nice choice of colours though because that’s one thing the Pro models have a limited number of options for. The iPhone 11 comes in six shades: red, white, black, blue, purple, and yellow. The purple is an entirely new shade as is the mint blue (or green if you see it that way). The finish is glossy, as we’ve known iPhones to be, and the device needs to go into a case because it will really smudged.

The two iPhone 11 Pro phones have two sizes to choose from and come in a new matte finish that is glass but feels like metal. Fingerprints are less evident on these and you can get away with using no case though vulnerability to damage from falls and knocks doesn’t change. The colour choices are silver, gold, space grey and a colour that people have really liked, midnight green. It’s actually only subtly different from the grey and only looks green at some angles.

On the inside, the iPhone 11 has a 6.1 inch LCD screen with a 1792x828 pixel resolution at 326 ppi density. The iPhone Pro phones have OLED displays with much higher resolution and pixel densities. But the iPhone 11’s screen does so well with its specs that it’s easily one of the best LCD’s and more than enough for most people — unless they’re reviewers who stare and compare. The Pro phones do have much greater brightness range however.

All three new iPhones work on the new A13 Bionic chip, capable of handling augmented reality tasks, gaming and artificial intelligence powered activities equally well. So the Pro phones are by no means more powerful.

What the iPhone 11 Pro models have to their advantage is three camera lenses instead of just two on the iPhone 11. At the same time, photography quality has been improved on all of these. The main “Wide” camera on the iPhone 11 Pro phones is a 12MP sensor with f/1.8 aperture, and optical image stabilisation. It also has an ‘Ultra Wide Angle’ lens, also a 12MP with an f/2.4 aperture and a 120-degree field of view. The third 12MP sensor goes into a telephoto lens which has an f/2.0 aperture and 2X zoom. The iPhone 11 has the first two but not the third. You can do a software zoom but not one that is supported by sheer optics. All three phones have a new and impressive night mode, excellent clarity and colour and are acknowledged to be the best for video. The difference in cameras can be soon on the back of the phones where on the Pro models there’s a big square holding all three lenses. On the iPhone 11, there are two lenses prominently displayed.

iPhone 11 vs iPhone XR
There are more choices than these two, the least expensive of this year’s and last year’s lineups, but for now it looks like the XR is available at reduced prices and still isn’t a smartphone you could consider obsolete by any means. It’s still a great phone and has in common with the new iPhones, iOS 13, which means the same software experience for the most part, and the same new features such as Dark Mode, new Siri, extensive new Photo features, updates to keyboards and more.(Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)

Resolution Professional to Chair RCom AGM Today

In what is probably the first for any major corporate, a resolution professional will chair and address the shareholders of the Anil Ambani-run bankrupt Reliance Communications at the annual meeting with shareholders here on Monday. Companies in the diversified group will be holding their annual general meetings (AGMs) in the financial capital.

On the venue front, there is a change from the past as the financially embattled group has chosen to hold the meetings in a city college instead of one of the biggest auditoriums in the city.

In his heydays, Anil's father Dhirubhai, widely credited for creating the equity cult, used to book cricket stadiums located to address the mammoth shareholder meets.

Post-division of the businesses, both Anil and Mukesh Ambani companies held their shareholder meets at the sprawling Birla Mathoshree auditorium in south Mumbai.

Starting at 10 am the AGMs of Reliance Capital, Reliance Infra, Reliance Power, Reliance Home Finance and finally Reliance Communication will be held at the audio of the KC College, where Anil Ambani was a student, officials said. (Source: Economic Times)

Road to 5G: Top 3 Telcos Look to Spend Over $30 b to Step Up Infra

Jio & Airtel, with their strong balance sheets, poised to gain from fibre backhaul: Experts. India’s top three telecom operators are looking at a collective capital expenditure of a shade over $30 billion (₹2.1 lakh crore) on base stations and fibre infrastructure alone for rolling out ultra-fast fifthgeneration or 5G mobile networks, said analysts.

Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, they said, would require to spend $10 billion capex each over the next five years, while Reliance Jio Infocommm’s incremental 5G capex outgo is estimated lower at around $8 billion as the Mukesh Ambani-led operator already has more 5G-ready fiberised towers than the incumbents, having already spent around $2 billion on tower fiberisation.

Analysts were, however, sceptical about Vodafone Idea’s ability to afford such big-ticket capex spends given its continuing market share losses and weak financials, which they said could choke its 5G play.

They also said the need for a dense site footprint and fibre backhaul in 5G would shift the balance of power towards larger and integrated operators with strong balance sheets like Jio and Airtel, while those with high gearing levels are at risk given the sustained high capex needs.

“Airtel and Vodafone Idea will each need to spend $2 billion annually on 5G radio and fibre capex spread across 5 years,” UBS said in a report, implying 65% and 85% of Airtel’s and Vodafone Idea’s current annual India capex run rates respectively.

By contrast, Jio’s 5G capex, it said, “would be lower due to its larger tower footprint and higher proportion of towers on fibre backhaul compared with Airtel and Vodafone Idea”. The brokerage also expects Jio to transition to 5G in a “time-efficient manner”, given its in-house data centres and investments in a content distribution network (CDN).

Analysts questioned lossmaking Vodafone Idea’s ability to make high 5G capex investments, though, as it is expected to continue losing market share as network integration and delayed 4G roll-outs have weakened its competitive position.

“Vodafone Idea’s stretched balance sheet will limit its participation in the 5G opportunity, and the company will require a significant improvement in network quality to arrest market share loss and revert to revenue growth,” UBS said in a note seen by ET.

Credit Suisse backed the view, saying, “Vodafone Idea will lose the most market share, and will need additional equity capital by FY21, given our expectation of no price increase”.

ET’s queries to Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Jio remained unanswered till press time.

UBS estimates that Airtel’s India mobile revenue will grow 5-6% in this financial year and the next even if interconnect usage charges – a source of revenue for incumbents – get scrapped from January 2020.

However, according to analysts, the telecom sector can reduce overall estimated $30.5 billion 5G capex spends by 15-20% if Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Jio share towers and fibre resources.

The Department of Telecommunications is keen to hold the next spectrum sale latest by January 2020.
Credit Suisse doesn’t expect the 5G spectrum sale to attract much interest, though, owing to a mix of “high reserve prices, telcos’ focus on monetising 4G investments, stretched balance sheets, a nascent 5G ecosystem and lack of significant 5G use cases for mass consumption”. (Source: Economic Times)

Airtel Expects to Cross 35% Revenue Mkt Share in 3 Qtrs

Telecom market has consolidated, co beginning to grow revenues: CEO Vittal. The war for subscribers in India’s telecom market is at a “decisive” phase, Gopal Vittal, Bharti Airtel CEO for India and South Asia, said, adding that the telco will target crossing the 35% revenue market share mark in three quarters, by “attacking” the weak spots of rivals Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea.

“We are now at a decisive phase in the war for customers in telecom… The market has consolidated. It is of course still brutally competitive but at the same time it is now settling. We are beginning to grow our revenues,” Vittal said in a recent communication to employees, available exclusively with ET.

“This is our time to lead the agenda and target a dramatic increase in our market share. The next two to three quarters must see us get well past 35% revenue market share,” Vittal told his staff of over 16,000 employees, spanning across mobile, homes and enterprise.

He added that the telco’s current RMS at 31.4% has been steady for the last six months, but that the mobile phone company should focus on two critical parameters — net 4G additions, or adding data users who generate higher revenue, and improving average revenue per user (ARPU) — in a bid to grow RMS. India’s carriers have been in the midst of a bloody price war since the entry of Reliance Jio in September 2016, which has triggered a rapid consolidation, shrinking the market to just three private sector players from eight, including a merger of the second and third largest carriers — Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, now called Vodafone Idea. In the process, Airtel’s subscriber base is down to over 281 million at the end of June from nearly 345 million a year back.

Hit by competitive intensity, Airtel’s India mobile business has been making losses for a few quarters now, but its revenue has started to grow, albeit slowly, over the last two quarters, helped by expansion in its ARPU, which in turn was mainly driven by the company getting rid of low-ARPU or inactive users. Airtel India’s mobile business churn — or the number of users leaving the network in a month — increased to 2.6% in the April-June quarter from 2% a year back, but improved from 2.8% in the previous three months ended March.

“I want every one of you (employees) to be paranoid about winning back customers we have lost and attacking the vulnerable spots where our competitors are weak,” the chief executive said, adding that there needs to be “razor sharp” focus on the subscriber churn by addressing complaints aggressively.

Analysts expect Vodafone Idea to be an easier target given its financial issues and ongoing service disruptions due to network integration, compared with Jio, which still maintains its aggressive pricing in a bid to target 500 million customers and is already the leader by RMS and subscribers.

“We expect Jio’s revenue market share to increase to around 44% by FY22E from 28% in FY19 while that of Vodafone Idea to decline to around 24% by FY22E from around 34% in FY19. We expect Bharti Airtel’s market share to remain largely stable at around 29%,” Swiss brokerage firm Credit Suisse said in a note to clients.

Brokerage CLSA underlined the criticality of adding 4G subscribers that will be key to the recovery of ARPU for all carriers.

“Over the past six months, Bharti Airtel has stepped up its 4G roll out, which has resulted in 31% incremental market share in new 4G users, which is 10 percentage points higher than its 21% share among 4G smartphone subscribers,” CLSA said.

Airtel Expects 35% Market Share
The brokerage added that it has a positive outlook for Jio and Airtel, but was concerned about Vodafone Idea’s “out-of-control” debt to equity ratio. Vittal though is aware of the challenges at hand, which include a gap in the telco’s rural coverage, which he said needs to be covered through a cost-sensitive model. The company leads in three markets (Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka), is No. 2 in 11 and third ranked in the rest. To win share in challenger markets “will require rigorous de-averaging down to a tehsil, street, outlet and customer level,” Vittal said. He added that the telco needs to raise its digital efforts in a bid to have 100 million monthly customers on its digital assets. (Source: Economic Times)

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