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Jio launches 'effectively free' 4G phone; data starts at Rs24

21 July 2017

Reliance Jio on Friday launched what chairman Mukesh Ambani called an "effectively free" 4G-enabled feature phone during the Reliance Industries Ltd's 40th annual general meeting in Mumbai. The company has christened the handset 'Jio Phone'.

"The Jio Phone would be available for an effective price Rs0," Ambani, India's richest man, said.

Customers would be required to pay a refundable security deposit of Rs1,500 for three years "for security reasons". Voice and would both be ''free'' on a monthly plan of Rs153.

"At a plan Rs153 a month, it is only 3 per cent of the existing price, putting an end to unaffordable data for all Indians forever," Ambani said.

The company will also offer similar features for a weekly plan for Rs54, and a two-day plan of Rs24.

"One, the Jio Phone voice will always be free, second, the 50 crore feature phone users don't even have access to basic internet. I believe today every young Indian should have access to information at his fingertips and that is what the Jio Phone enables. To enable a digital life all need access to data at affordable rates. So starting 15 August this year I am declaring digital freedom for all feature phone users. Jio will give them access to unlimited data on the Jio phone," Ambani announced to thunderous applause from shareholders present at the event.

The company has a target of making 5 million Jio Phones available every week.

Users will be able to connect a Jio Phone to any TV, not just smart TVs but even the old CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) TVs. All Jio Phone users can enjoy viewing their Jio content on their phones from their TV screens, Ambani said.

"Today Jio is going to reinvent the conventional feature phone," he announced. The company claims that the Jio Phone is the "most intelligent affordable phone in the whole world."

In a curtain raiser of sorts Jio on Thursday had taken to micro-blogging site Twitter to tease the launch in a cryptic way. "We are all set to unfold a new chapter of the Jio Digital Life. Join us at the Reliance AGM 2017," it said.

Reliance Jio launched its 4G service commercially on 5 September 2016 offering free data and voice services. It crossed 50 million subscribers in just a matter of 83 days, and 100 million in 170 days, having added an average 6 lakh subscribers per day.

In a statement to the bourses earlier in the week, Jio said it would be raising Rs20,000 crore through a rights issue of optionally convertible preference shares (OCPS) to shareholders as the company prepares for the next phase of expansion.

Shares of rival telecom companies Idea Cellular and market leader Bharti Airtel fell as much as 7.3 per cent and 4.2 per cent respectively on Friday after the Jio Phone launch, The Times of India reported.

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