Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani on Thursday unveiled ambitious plans to launch a high-speed fixed line fibre broadband for homes and enterprises to cover 1,100 cities and market a cheap 4G phone on a large scale. The twin steps are expected to further disrupt the country's telecom sector already reeling under a fierce price war.
Ambani, India's richest man, said at the oil-to-telecom giant's 41st annual general meeting that the company will begin registrations for its fibre-to-home service JioGigaFiber from August 15.
Smart home solutions such as real-time surveillance and security solutions for homes and enterprises will ride on the fibre network, which will potentially connect 50 million homes, Ambani told shareholders at the AGM.
Reliance has been testing its fibre broadband system in some cities, offering what it says are higher internet speeds than regular broadband where speed is lost as the fibre reaches only up to the building and not directly into homes.
Ambani did not give price plans for JioGigaFiber, unlike for Reliance's telecom venture Jio that was unveiled in late 2016 with free calls and rockbottom data rates that disrupted the country's telecom sector, pushing even top players like Airtel and Idea Cellular into quarterly losses and spurred consolidation for sheer survival.
Reliance also announced the launch of a new internet-enabled low-cost phone at Rs 2,999. The device, named JioPhone2, will also be available from August 15.
JioPhone2 will have added features like qwerty keypad and messaging services like Whatsapp, Facebook, and Youtube.
This would be in addition to the Jio-Phone, which will continue to be available on payment of a Rs 1,500 refundable security deposit.
Reliance last year launched the Jio-Phone, which allowed digital payments and was effectively free as buyers could get a device for a refundable fee of Rs 1,500.
Jio now has 215 million subscribers and is on track to cover 99 percent of Jio set to rock rivals again with hi-speed broadband the country, Ambani said.
He said the target is to now achieve another 100 million JioPhone users in the shortest span of time.
Reliance is betting big on acquiring content to fuel data consumption in India. The country has over a billion mobile connections, and Reliance has invested in film entertainment firm Eros, Indian production house Balaji Telefilms and music app Saavn.
"Jio, Reliance's telecom service firm, will move India to top five nations in fixed-line broadband in the coming year, Ambani said but did not give pricing of the new offering or its launch date. We are currently running beta trials in tens of thousands of homes," he said.
While India has pole-vaulted into global leadership in the mobile broadband space... we still lag behind significantly in fixed-line broadband. India is ranked quite low at 134th in the global ranking for fixed broadband.
Poor fixed-line infrastructure has been a key reason for this, he said. With over Rs 2,50,000 crore already invested in digital infrastructure for providing mobile and broadband connectivity across the country, fibre broadband connectivity will now reach homes, he added.
Jio's launch in September 2016 has already made India the highest mobile data consuming nation.
Reliance has reached an inflection point, he said. As the Golden Decade rolls on, our consumer businesses will contribute nearly as much to the overall earnings of the company as our energy and petrochemical businesses.