Reliance Jio, the telecom offering from Mukesh Ambani, will offer the world’s cheapest data, said the 59-year-old billionaire, disclosing the long-awaited prices of what’s being set up as the country’s largest 4G network.
Ambani said that Jio not charge users at all for voice calls, including long-distance within India. But the big disruptor is the price of data- just Rs 50 per gigabyte, a fifth of what mobile phone users have been paying so far.
For customers who use more than 75GB, the price will slide further to Rs 25 per GB. This, Ambani, said, take India from “Gandhigiri to data-giri.”
Starting Monday, any cell phone user, including those with smartphones as cheap as Rs. 2,999, will be able to sample all Jio services – including its library of movies and music – for free. The offer ends on December 31.
The announcements today, made in Mumbai at an annual shareholders meeting which included wife Neeta, mother Kokilaben and children Isha and Anant, have beaten the expectations of both the market and customers, who have been lining up for SIM cards to switch to Jio, which first started offering free services in May 2016. After Mr Ambani’s announcement, Reliance Industries Limited stock went up by 0.9 percent.
That has led to formal complaints including to the Prime Minister’s Office from competitors like Bharti Airtel, who allege that Reliance has used valuable 4G or fourth-generation airwaves at no cost, offering customers full-blown services for free, while gypping the government of revenue and stealing customers from other carriers.
Reliance has denied any wrongdoing and countered that competitors are cartelizing to make it difficult for Jio users to connect easily with other networks.
Worried about the impact of Jio, Bharti Airtel this week cut its 3G/4G data tariffs on prepaid connections by more than 40 percent, after halving them a month ago.
Ambani is betting at least $20 billion on building, from scratch, a national digital empire stretching from phones and hardware to home entertainment and custom-made apps. Jio is unlikely to contribute significantly to Reliance profits anytime soon, but is hugely significant for its future. Reliance says its oil business is pumping out cash, and any investment in Jio has to be ambitious.
Two-thirds of India's 1.3 billion population are not online, and Jio hopes to capture 100 million users – nearly half of India's current smartphone users – within a year of launch.