It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that India conglomerate Reliance’s telecom arm Jio almost single-handedly led India into the 4G era, with its dirt-cheap data plans, free calls, and wide coverage. India now is the top-ranked country for mobile data consumption. Jio and its 300 million subscribers have contributed much to this great feat.
The company, at its 42ndAnnual General Meeting held this week, announced a wide array of news plans to take its bold moves further, including a mobile broadband service dubbed Jio Fiber, as well as an OTT (over-the-top) video service among other things.
Jio Fiber will be launched next month. It will be available to Jio customers at various price slabs ranging from 10 – 140 dollars per month for plans offering data speeds varying from 100 megabits per second to 1 gigabits per second. There is a freebie too: voice calls will not be charged.
With Jio Fiber, a customer gets a package of a landline phone connection, digital set-top box, UHD entertainment, interactive gaming, voice-enabled virtual assistants and many smart enabled solutions. The offering will also be bundled with subscriptions to most leading premium OTT applications. The company also plans to launch an OTT platform called ‘Jio First Day First Show’ by mid 2020 where premium Jio Fiber customers can watch movies the same day they are released in theatres in the comfort of their homes. This pits it with Hotstar, Netflix and Amazon Prime in the face.
Three years ago, the Indian wireless telecom space was disrupted by the launch of “Reliance Jio” offering 4G services at affordable rates on heavily subsidized Jio budget smartphones. Since then the way India consumed online content changed, marking a drastic upward shift of fortunes for most companies that sat in an app on a smartphone. Ambani hopes the same magic happens with Jio Fiber in the wired telecom arena.
According to Internet World statistics, as of March 2019, there are around 18.42 million wired broadband users in India. India is set to have the highest number of internet users in the world by 2028. Jio aims to acquire 500 million users by end-2025 and is hopeful too as the beta trials of Jio Fiber services have been encouraging.
While Jio’s fast and affordable data service brought JioTV and JioCloud to its consumers, with Jio Fiber the intent is to bring Internet of Things (IoT) from January 2020 and connect one billion homes via the IoT platform. The IoT segment alone is expected to fetch Reliance a handsome revenue opportunity of USD 2.8 billion. Installing one of the largest blockchain networks in India through Jio Fiber is also in the pipeline.
Reliance may have made grand announcements but the fact is that spectrum allocation in India is being done through the auction process and the Indian government is yet to auction the spectrum 3.3 – 3.6 GHz bands. The 3.5 GHz band supports 5G deployment. Additionally, fiber is expensive and Reliance will find it challenging to lay fibers via with the complicated digging procedures and lack of infrastructure in India. There will be time lag and cost inflation.