India : Reliance unwraps Jio mobile telecom network with free calls, cheap data
MUMBAI : Reliance Industries Ltd on Thursday said it will offer free domestic voice calls and rock-bottom data prices on its new Jio mobile phone network until the end of the year, an ambitious roll-out plan that whacked shares of established telecoms firms.
Reliance Chairman Mukesh Ambani told shareholders at the oil and gas giant’s annual shareholder meeting that Jio would be available for free until Dec. 31 as it continues network tests. Ambani, India’s richest man, didn’t say when the company would launch commercial services.
Shares in India’s largest wireless carrier Bharti Airtel Ltd fell as much as 9.1 percent, while third-biggest Idea Cellular slid up to 9.3 percent by midday.
“(Jio) is future-ready, and can easily be upgraded to support even more data as technologies advance,” said Ambani. “We’ll be able to provide an abundance of high-quality high-speed data and transform India from a high-priced data market to one with the lowest data rates anywhere in the world.”
Long anticipated in India, Jio could make Reliance the country’s most comprehensive provider of telecom and internet services across India – a key plank of Ambani’s future strategy even though Jio is unlikely to contribute significantly to Reliance profit any time soon.
Jio, which is also set to offer free roaming to all clients across the country, will eventually charge a base rate of about 50 rupees ($ 0.7468) per gigabyte of data, and data charges will fall even more for heavier data users. The rates are about one-fifth of prevailing data costs in the country.
Chairman Mukesh Ambani laid out his plans to unveil a 4G mobile network in the country, including making all domestic voice calls and roaming free, while saying data would be priced well below its competitors.
Ambani, speaking at the company’s annual general meeting in Mumbai, added the 4G network would cover 90 percent of India’s 1.25 billion population by March 2017 and would eventually cover 18,000 cities and 200,000 villages.
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