More reports on: Telecom

Ambani says Jio to offer 80 times faster speeds but when?

31 March 2016

Reliance Industries Ltd chairman Mukesh Ambani said on Wednesday the group's telecom arm, Reliance Jio Infocomm, is the world's biggest startup with an investment of over Rs150,000 crore, and would offer broadband speeds up to 80 times faster than current offerings at affordable rates.

"It (Jio) is one of the largest transformational greenfield digital initiatives anywhere in the world," Ambani said at a Ficci Frames 2016 event in Mumbai.

The company had earlier estimated that it would invest around Rs100,000 crore by launch time, but that figure seems to have shot up as the commercial launch gets pushed deeper into 2016.

Among India's telcos, the Sunil Mittal-led Bharti group leads with Rs2.64 lakh crore invested till December 2015 in telecom ventures, while Vodafone India and Idea Cellular have spent Rs1.13 lakh crore and Rs1lakh crore respectively in their telecom businesses. All three have already launched 4G services, with market leader Airtel having the most expansive footprint so far in over 350 cities across 15 circles.

"Jio would start services with 70 per cent coverage of India from day 1," and would cover over 90 per cent of the population by 2017, Ambani added.

Jio has 4G airwaves in all 22 service areas. Jio would also ensure its 4G services are affordable to the consumer. "Jio will significantly up the quantity, quality and coverage for broadband Internet while lowering the cost to the user," he said.

The company's billionaire owner has previously said that Jio would offer data and voice services at half or less than half the current market rates. The offerings, he had said, would include instant messaging, live TV, movies-on-demand, news, streaming music and a digital payments platform.

However, on Wednesday, Ambani did not reveal the commercial launch timeframe. The analyst community expects a soft launch in April and a wider commercial launch by December. Jio had rolled out services for its 120,000 employees and partners in late December.

Ambani said Jio's network is "engineered to provide a capacity of 10GB per month to every user," which is nearly 100 times above current average data consumption of about 0.15 GB a month in India.

He added that digitisation is the defining trend of this century, the reason why Jio was conceived. "I have no doubt that with the launch of Jio, India's position will go up from 150 to among the top 10 of mobile Internet rankings in the world," Ambani said.

His comments come at a time when Jio's much-anticipated but delayed 4G services launch is keeping not merely consumers on their toes, but even brokerage houses, who are falling over each other to predict a launch date.

In a 29 March note, a little over a week after one that had pegged a commercial launch in December, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch said a soft launch in early April is possible but purely to test if Jio's 4G network is reliable enough to handle a full-blown commercial rollout expected after 3-6 months.

India Infoline has also estimated a December launch timeline for Jio. In its latest report, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch appeared to be reacting to a Credit Suisse report a day earlier, which had pegged an April soft launch as well and said that Reliance Digital stores in Mumbai were stocked with Jio 4G SIMs, although there was no clarity yet on when actual sales would start.

CS had added that it is not sure if a customer needs to buy a Lyf handset to get the SIM, or if the SIMs will be sold standalone.

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