For Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Industries, the ‘re-entry’ in the telecom space is one of the group’s most ambitious project to date — after retail — and it has pumped in nearly Rs 1 lakh crore into the business.
The limited launch was observed as part of Reliance Founder’s Day Weekend to mark Dhirubhai Ambani’s 83rd birth anniversary. It was a family reunion of sorts as the launch event of Jio brought billionaire Mukesh Ambaini and his brother Anil, sister-in-law Tina and nephews Anmol and Anshul together with his family. Mother Kolileben also graced the gala function that lasted nearly two hours.
The event was witnessed by Reliance Industries’ 35,000 employees and their families, with 80,000 more watching the live streaming of the proceedings across over 1,000 centres, plus Dallas in the US, showcasing Jio’s new network.
Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan, who is the brand ambassador for Jio’s 4G mobile and broadband services, and music composer AR Rehman performed at the event.
Reliance Jio holds the biggest chunk of liberalized spectrum among telecom operators and that can be used for deploying any technology for mobile services. Apart from airwaves in the 2,300Mhz band pan-India, it has also accumulated airwaves in the 1,800MHz band and 800MHz band and is also said to be signing spectrum sharing and trading deals with Anil Ambani-headed Reliance Communications for the latter’s 800Mhz airwaves. It has also tied up infrastructure sharing pacts with a number of tower companies.
Motivation for Reliance Jio
“Business should have a larger purpose – to serve society. Why Jio? Because life is going digital. 1.3 billion Indians cannot be left behind. This is our motivation for Jio,” Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, Jio’s parent, said at the launch.
The complimentary offer for group staff will continue until Jio launches its 4G services commercially next year, which is widely expected to be in March-April 2016. Reliance employees across group companies and business partners are being offered free 4G connections and Voice over LTE (VoLTE)-enabled handsets at discounted rates to sample Jio’s high-speed broadband services.
The limited start comes more than five years after RIL bought a company that won broadband spectrum across India to re-enter the telecom sector. But technical challenges related to the 2,300Mhz (4G) airwaves meant the company hasn’t been able to meet the December timeline for the commercial launch announced by chairman Ambani in June.
Reliance Jio will be the challenger in an intensely competitive market lead by Sunil Mittal’s Bharti Airtel, and trailed by No. 2 Vodafone, a unit of the world’s largest telecom company UK’s Vodafone Group Plc, and Idea Cellular.
The partnership for Reliance Jio brings together the once-feuding Ambani brothers who had an ugly public feud after death of their father Dhirubhai Ambani in 2002 to split the Reliance empire. In their telecom partnership, Anil’s Reliance Communications will access 4G mobile networks of Jio, which, in turn, can use the former’s 2G and 3G networks when needed. Mukesh’s Jio had in the past partnered Reliance Communications, India’s fourth-biggest mobile phone carrier, for sharing of mobile masts and leasing of optic fibre network.