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All set for full-scale launch, says Reliance Jio

16 July 2016

Reliance Jio Infocomm said it is in a high state of readiness to start offering its 4G services, except in four circles where it could take four to six more weeks to prepare the network. The announcement indicates that the Reliance Industries unit could announce its much-anticipated launch any day now.

"We had thought that we would launch once our 850 MHz network was integrated, because we don't want to be working on the network after the launch. But apart from that, our overall readiness is really high," Anshuman Thakur, head of strategy and planning at Reliance Jio, told reporters in Mumbai on Friday during the first-quarter earnings briefing of Reliance Industries.

He said the company received the last of the required approvals from the telecom department on 7 July in the four circles of Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. "So it will take four-six weeks to deploy the network there. In all other circles our readiness is high," he said, without specifying any launch date.

Described as the world's biggest startup with an investment of around Rs1.5 lakh crore, the launch has been six years in the making since Reliance Industries re-entered the telecom sector by buying a company which had won pan-India 4G airwaves in an auction in 2010.

"At Reliance Jio, we have built an entire ecosystem that will allow Indians to live the digital life to the fullest. This transformational ecosystem consists of broadband connectivity, devices and powerful applications and services which will be available to every consumer in India," Chairman Mukesh Ambani said in Reliance Industries' earnings statement.

Jio said it has invested some Rs1.34 lakh crore of the Rs1.5 lakh crore for setting up its network, on spectrum and other expenses. It will spend the rest to expand coverage to 90 per cent of the population over two years from the date of the launch from the 70 per cent it has already achieved.

It has spectrum in the 4G bands of 2300 MHz, 1800 Mhz and 850 MHz. It has also signed trading and sharing pacts for 850 Mhz - considered to be the best available in India for 4G - with Reliance Communications, owned by Mukesh Ambani's younger brother, Anil.

Capital expenditure for this fiscal year through March 2017 stands at $3-4 billion, Thakur said.

Jio debt stands at Rs42,000-43,000 crore. This is mostly rupee-denominated since the business is domestic, Thakur said.

Reliance said Jio already has over 1.5 million test users on its network, and the trial programme will gradually be upgraded into commercial operations in the coming months. It said the feedback had been encouraging.

Reliance Retail, the retail arm of the parent, has so far introduced 20 LYF-branded smartphone models ranging from Rs 3,000 to Rs 20,000 in the market, selling more than two million smartphones so far. Thakur said around a million LYF devices have been sold in the last two-and-half months alone.

Jio has extended the preview offer of its service to users of certain Samsung smartphones as well, in a bid to attract more users to its network using the Indian smartphone market leader's reach.

Reliance Industries said the average monthly data consumption on the Jio network is in excess of 26 GB per user, while average voice usage is more than 355 minutes. Market leader Airtel reported an average voice usage of 415 minutes in the quarter ended March 31.

"The 26 GB per person includes the voice because on our network everything is data," Thakur said. "But voice consumes a minuscule amount of data. If you were to look at consumption for the full year at current rate, that would be 0.5 GB of data."

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