Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani formally launched RJio, a national digital empire stretching from phones and hardware to home entertainment and custom-made apps, at the company’s annual general meeting in Mumbai on Thursday.
Dedicating his company’s most ambitious venture to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India initiative, Ambani emphasised on affordability of data connection.
“Supply of oxygen for digital life should be affordable. Data is oxygen for digital life,” said Ambani, and added: ““Reliance Jio’s goal is to take our nation from data shortage to data abundance. It is an entire ecosystem that’ll allow Indians to live the digital life to the fullest.”
Ambani announced a slew of attractive schemes: the introduction of 4G devices from Rs 2,999, cheap data plans, unlimited night-time 4G connection and free Jio-to-Jio voice calls, among others.
“It’s a great pleasure to announce a revolutionary concept for Indian market: all voice calls for Jio customers to be absolutely free,” Ambani said, outlining his vision for the “single internet mother tongue of India”.
“Jio’s app booking, worth Rs 15,000 for an annual subscription, will be available free for all active Jio customers till December 31.”
Jio — the project is pegged at Rs 1.5 lakh crore — saw a soft-launch in December 2015, when RIL offered mobile connections and discounted handsets to its over 100,000 employees.
“In the next 20 years we will achieve what have achieved in the last 100 years,” Ambani said, “Reliance Jio is the largest 4G LTE in the world. Jio already connects 200,000 villages, 18,000 towns. It will cover 90% of India by March 2017.”
Telecom operators in India have been waging a price war to retain and acquire customers ahead of Reliance Jio’s (RJio) formal launch. Experts said RJio would disrupt the telecom industry with cheap data.
“No doubt all of us operators will compete vigorously in market. Will inspire each other to rise to greater heights...” Ambani said.
Prashant Singhal, global telecommunications leader at EY, said: “Whenever a new player enters an industry, there are chances of disruption. RJio could be that player.”
Over a decade ago, Reliance Infocomm’s launch of a Samsung feature phone for Rs 501 and very cheap calling rates in 2002 triggered an aggressive price war. Six years later, telecom companies started slashing prices after Tata Docomo started per second billing.
“Operators are definitely cutting rates. Rel Jio’s launch will be a big challenge for the industry and it will be irresponsible for telcos to ignore it,” said Mahesh Uppal, senior telecom analyst and owner of ComFirst.
Bharti Airtel had on Monday slashed prepaid data rates by as much as 80%. The company currently has 38 million 4G and 3G users in India. Under the new schemes customers can avail a gigabyte (GB) of data for Rs 51 — just one rupee over the rate unveiled by RJio on Thursday.