India is all set to have a new telecommunications provider by the end of this year. The new carrier is called Reliance Jio, and is slated to start services by December 2015. The carrier will start life as a wholly-owned subsidiary of its parent company, India’s second largest corporate entity, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), which was founded by Mr. Dhirubhai Ambani back in the eighties. The yet-to-be-launched carrier has been five years in the making, but now, the CEO and son of the late founder, Mr. Mukesh Ambani has confirmed the company will make its long-awaited commercial launch of high-speed wireline and wireless broadband services in December. Analysts and market watchers believe, the upcoming launch could dramatically alter the landscape of the telecom sector in one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Rivals are fearing and consumers are hoping that a price-war might ensue, resulting in better deals, and improved services in a market notorious for its inefficient and unreliable internet services, with speeds still stuck in the middle ages.
At the 41st Annual General Meeting of Reliance Industries held in Mumbai, Mr. Ambani unveiled details of Jio’s proposed fourth-generation LTE services. Mr. Ambani asserted that Jio will offer voice and data services at half of current rates, and will bundle services like instant messaging, live TV and streaming audio and video. Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Ambani said, “All the key components of the Jio broadband network are now operational. As we speak, we have an end-to-end initial capacity to serve in excess of 100 million wireless broadband customers and 20 million fibre-to-home customers, with capabilities to easily expand further as the business scales up”. Mr Ambani also claimed that Jio’s wireline infrastructure is currently present in all states, across 18,000 towns, and its wireless framework is even more pervasive, covering 100,000 villages. He said that he believed Jio will be able to cover 80% of the country’s population by the end of the year, and 100% of the population in three years’ time. As a reason for his optimism, Mr. Ambani pointed out Jio’s “legacy-free, next-generation voice and broadband network which can be seamlessly upgraded even to 5G and beyond”.
Mr. Ambani also mentioned he is prioritizing schools in rural areas, where infrastructure is shaky to say the least. “This is to ensure that the benefits of our broadband initiative is first and foremost felt by the young students who stand to gain the most by accessing the information superhighway”. Once fully operational, the carrier will compete against entrenched incumbents like Airtel, Vodaphone and the State-owned public sector twins – BSNL and MTNL.