Can Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Jio usher in a new paradigm shift for Digital India?


At the Reliance Annual General Meeting on Thursday morning, Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance, officially announced the launch of Reliance Jio, and said that it was dedicated to realising Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of digital connectivity for 1.2 billion Indians. He said,

I start with the newest and youngest member of the Reliance family – Jio.

Ambani noted that in the next 20 years of human civilisation, we will collectively achieve more than what has been achieved in the last 300 years through advances in technology. He went on to claim that while India is currently ranked 155th for mobile broadband Internet access out of 230 countries, Jio will help India be among the top 10. Comparing Internet data to oxygen, Ambani said,

Digital Technologies open the doors to this life. Life cannot survive without oxygen; data is the oxygen of digital life. So, supply of oxygen for digital life must never be unaffordable...Jio’s mission is to meet the exploding need of data for India, and to take our nation from data shortage to data abundance."

Jio claims that its long-term goal is to realise the Digital India vision and ensure Indians have highest quality and quantity data access at affordable prices.

The Jio ecosystem stands on five fundamental pillars:

1.The best quality broadband network with highest capacity

Ambani claimed that Jio is the only mobile network in the country that is only 4G LTE. He elaborated, "This means that there is only 4G on the Jio network and not “mostly 2G, sometimes 3G and once-in-a-while 4G”.

He also noted that the network is future-ready and could be easily upgraded to support even more data, as technologies advance to 5G, 6G and beyond.

2. A world of affordable 4G smartphones and wireless IP device

Today, Reliance Digital is introducing a lineup of affordable 4G LTE smartphones under Reliance's LYF brand, starting at Rs 2,999 for 4G LTE and Rs 1,999 for Jio-Fi, a wireless IP device. Jio apps bouquet – worth Rs 15,000 for an annual subscription – will be complimentary for all active Jio customers up to December 31, 2017.

3. Applications and content

To give users better control over their account, Reliance has an app- MyJio, which lets them manage their account, recharge linked accounts and view detailed statements of usage.

4. Superior digital service experiences

Ambani noted that they had redesigned the Jio sign-up experience and made it fully digital using an Aadhaar-based eKYC process. He said,

Over the next four to six weeks we will have this process in all our stores across India. Any Jio customer carrying an Aadhaar card will be able to walk out of a Jio store with a working connection within 15 minutes.

5. Affordable and simple tariffs

Coming to the most important point about tariffs, Ambani said,

I have great pleasure in announcing that all voice calls for Jio customers will be absolutely free. Free voice calling across India, to any network at all times. And no domestic roaming charges."

Additionally, Reliance aims to offer unlimited night LTE data, as a means to pass on the idle network capacity at night to customers. On data plans, Ambani noted,

Data packs in the market have an effective rate of about Rs 250 per GB. With Jio, you pay five to 10 times lower – Rs 25-50 per GB.

"Most legacy telecom providers have not built their networks for data or the Internet but for voice and SMS. As Internet revolution caught on, they have had to retrofit their legacy networks to deal with data and IP as afterthought," said Ambani, while claiming that Jio, on the other hand, had created an all-IP network.

With Jio, Ambani aims to make IP India’s digital mother tongue. On Jio's reach, he said,

Today, Jio’s 4G network covers 18,000 cities and towns, and over two lakh villages. By March 2017, we will cover 90 percent of India’s population.

Will history repeat itself?

The 45-minute speech from Ambani created a ripple effect as stocks of competitors like Airtel and Idea took a hit, slumping down by eight percent.

In 2002, Reliance Infocomm had completed a successful coup over other competitors by making long-distance calls cheaper and incoming calls free, which forced competitors to rethink their strategies and adjust. Now in 2016, Reliance Jio too may prove to be a turning point in Digital India's journey and true democratisation of data.

Reliance Jio may have won the battle today, but can it win the war?

Related read: How Reliance Jio plans to make aam aadmi a digital native


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