On Sunday evening, on the eve of founder Dhirubhai Ambani’s 83rd birthday and amid a lot of star-studded attraction, Mukesh Ambani launched Reliance Jio, the group’s 4G telecom service, for over 90,000 RIL employees.
The launch is a pre-cursor to the commercial rollout that is expected to happen in the next three months. The service will be free initially for employees of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL).
The launch event was held at Reliance Corporate Park, with RIL’s other employees virtually connected at 1,000 locations.
A senior RIL executive said the move aims is to create thousands of ambassadors for Jio to beta test the product before its final rollout.
Jio Digital Life, as the service is called, wants to bring Internet to all. “1.3 billion Indians cannot be left behind as the world enters a new era,” Ambani said.
India ranks 150 out of 230 countries on Internet and mobile penetration, but Ambani is ambitious. “With Jio’s launch, India’s rank will go up from 150 to among the top ten in next few years.”
What India lacks is the eco-system, which Ambani thinks can be changed. Over Rs 80,000 crore has already been spent on Jio. The last time Reliance tried its hands in telecom, it disrupted the whole industry in 2002 with its ‘monsoon hungama, when it made mobile handsets available for Rs 500. From a device of the elite, mobile phones became the device for the masses.
This time it is all about services, or what can be called a house of content — from live TV, to video and audio calls, newspapers and a lot more.
Ambani calls it “connected intelligence”— a combination of machine and human intelligence. As he said during the launch, “My mother Kokilaben at 83, does a smart phone better than me. That’s simplicity.”
But, there are not many handheld devices to access 4G. “There are 150 models of 4G phones and phones that are not 4G capable can use a 4G-Jio router,” Jio’s brand ambassador Shahrukh Khan said. Khan and musician AR Rehman performed on different songs at the launch event.