Mukesh Ambani's digital play is the new talk of the town. At the shareholders' meeting on June 12, 2015, he presented a detailed roadmap on his new 4G broadband business, which is going to be launched in December (most probably on December 28, the birthday of Late Dhirubhai Ambani).
According to reports, Reliance Jio, the telecom arm of Reliance Industries (RIL), will not be limited to voice and data as everyone thought it would be, but will be a three-pronged combination of broadband networks, affordable smart phones and content and applications.
The overall cost of RIL's digital plan will go up to Rs 100,000 crore, about Rs 30,000 crore more than the earlier estimated cost. Jio will start operations in all 29 states with direct physical presence in nearly 18,000 cities and towns and wireless footprint in over one lakh villages. Ambani looks to extend the footprint by reaching out to 80 per cent of India's population by the end of this year and plans a 100 per cent national coverage within the next three years.
Jio is in the pre-launch testing and stabilisation phase. Over the next few months, the operator will initiate an extensive beta launch involving millions of friendly customers across the markets. The beta program will be upgraded into commercial operations around December this year.
Jio and Reliance Digital officials have worked with leading global device manufacturers for the availability of 4G LTE smartphones across all price points. The strong line-up of smartphones, tablets and devices will remove a key barrier to mass adoption of broadband data, high definition voice, video calling, messaging and rich value-added services.
"The combination of Jio's strong initiatives and a supportive global environment gives me the confidence that we will see 4G LTE smartphones in India at prices below Rs 4,000 by December of this year," said Ambani. Also, he aims to provide digital services at Rs 300-500 per month.
Jio looks to offer a combination of telecom, high-speed data, digital commerce, media and payment services. Before the end of the year, the fashion and lifestyle formats of Reliance Retail will roll out its e-commerce initiative. Reliance's e-commerce initiative in grocery, www.reliancefreshdirect.com, would be scaled up to serve new markets. The third e-commerce initiative is building on the experience of RIL's physical B2B business, said Ambani.
In April, they launched first mobile application, 'Jio Chat'-the communication application that integrates chat, voice, video calling, conferencing, file sharing and photo sharing. Switch-and-Walk, which will allow customers to seamlessly copy everything from their old phone to a new phone, will be next in row. Another, 'Jio Drive' will bring cloud capabilities to every smartphone. Using this application, anyone can store, sync and share any content between devices. With 'Jio Play', one will be able to watch HD TV anytime, anywhere on any device. "It has hundreds of channels, across categories and languages. The company has built personalised video on demand application that brings Bollywood, regional and international movies, TV episodes, trailers and music videos in High Definition for your entertainment. 'Jio Beats' is a digital music streaming service that gives instant access to millions of songs and curated playlists - from old favourites to the latest hits. 'Jio Mags' provides the most popular collection of magazines. One can read past issues along with the latest. 'Jio News' delivers a one stop shop for all news from leading news publishing houses across multiple languages and categories.
All these services are ready and are being piloted today and will be launched along with Jio connectivity services, said Ambani. Network 18, which RIL acquired last year, will support the initiative, providing content from its 17 news channels, 14 entertainment channels, in 8 languages, and a set of internet businesses. The broadband operator will launch digital payments business also, called Jio Money. The goal is to create a wide network of merchants, who use Jio Money so that most household payments can happen digitally. RIL has partnered with State Bank of India to apply for payments bank license under regulations issued by the Reserve Bank of India.
"We have created a legacy-free, next-generation voice and broadband network which can be seamlessly upgraded even to 5G and beyond. We will deliver the gold standard for coverage and capacity, and push to raise the bar even further with small cells," said Ambani. He also expressed his commitment to the principles of net neutrality.
Jio has also deployed a network of nearly 250,000 kilometres of optical fibre cable and it will double in the three years. The company plans to connect to over 1 million homes via fibre by April of next year. In addition to this domestic fibre optic capacity, Jio has created a multi-terabit capacity international network. More than half of internet traffic served by Jio will be carried end-to-end on Jio's own network, said Ambani.
"Across the world, a full-blown social, mobile, digital and cloud revolution is underway. To support India's prominent participation in this revolution, Jio has operationalised nearly half a million square feet of its own next-generation cloud data centres. Work is underway to double this capacity over the next year," said Ambani.
The Jio team has grown rapidly to over 17,500 full-time employees, dozens of technology partners and more than 150,000 people on ground for infrastructure rollout.
Jio now has the largest footprint of liberalised spectrum in the country. In addition to the existing pan India 2,300 MHz spectrum and 1,800 MHz in 14 circles, Jio invested over Rs 10,000 crore during this year's auction to acquire 800 MHz spectrum in 10 circles and 1,800 MHz spectrum in six circles. This brings our cumulative investment in spectrum assets to nearly Rs 34,000 crore.
Ambani said that all the key components of the Jio broadband network were operational. "As we speak, we have an end-to-end initial capacity to serve in excess of 100 million wireless Broadband and 20 million Fibre-to-the-Home customers, with capability to easily expand further as the business scales up," added Ambani.