Billionaire Mukesh Ambani's telecom unit Reliance Jio will begin charging for data services from April but will give steep discounts for a year to over 100 million customers who have come on board within six months of its launch.
While local voice calls, STD and roaming will continue to be free, he promised to match the best offers of rival telecom companies and add 20 percent more data from April 1. In a speech broadcast live from the company's social media accounts, Ambani said Jio has added 100 million subscribers in 170 days since launch in September last year and the company plans to extend the network to cover 99 percent of population by this year-end.
Jio, which marked Ambani's re-entry in telecom space after a decade with free voice calls for life and free data for a promotional period that was extended until March 31, will offer existing users unlimited services for a year at a monthly charge of Rs 303 and one-time membership fee of Rs 99.
The entry forced incumbents to cut tariff and consider mergers to face competition from Jio. Vodafone and Idea are considering a merger to create a player bigger than the market leader, Bharti Airtel. The incumbents also challenged Jio's promotional scheme before telecom regulator Trai, saying free services beyond 90- days were a violation of rules.
While shares of Reliance Industries, the parent firm of Jio, rose 1.36 percent to close at Rs 1,088.25 on BSE, rival Bharti Airtel tanked 3.9 percent to close at Rs 362.95. Idea Cellular fell 0.4 percent to Rs 108.30.
Jio launched its services on September 5 of last year. Today, just 170 days later, Jio has crossed the 100-million customer mark on its 4G LTE, all-IP wireless broadband network, Ambani said.
After end of its Happy New Year Offer, which was kind of an extension of the initial promotional offer of free voice and data to attract customers, Jio will introduce tariff plans from April 1.
For the existing 100-million-plus users, Ambani announced Jio Prime Membership programme wherein customers can enroll by paying one-time fee of Rs 99 and continue to get the existing benefits till March 2018 at "a rock-bottom introductory price of only Rs 303 per month".
For 170 days, Jio has added on average nearly 7 customers on its network every single second of every single day. This is an unprecedented level of acceptance for any technology company anywhere in the world, he said.
With 200 crore minutes of voice and video calls, more than 100 crore GB or 3.3 crore GB a day of data has been consumed on the Jio network, India is now number one country in the world for mobile data usage, he said. Data usage on Jio matches almost the usage in US and nearly half more than all of China.
A significant portion of this data is consumed as video and Jio carries nearly 5.5 crore hours of video daily on its network. This makes Jio one of the largest mobile video networks globally, he said.
Ambani said Jio has more than double the number of 4G base stations of all the other Indian operators put together.
And we are making our network better, faster and stronger with each passing day. In the coming months, we will more than double our data capacity and this means even better quality for our customers, he said, adding that by 2017-end the Jio network will be present in nearly all the cities, towns and villages of India, covering 99 percent of population.