India's RJio Hits 50M Customers in 83 Days

Indian telco Reliance Jio claims to have signed up a whopping 50 million customers in the 83 days since it launched a commercial 4G service. In a statement, the operator boasted this was the fastest rate of customer growth ever achieved by a technology company, including the likes of Facebook, WhatsApp and Skype. The operator has now extended its generous offer of free data services for another three months, until the end of March, in the hope of further gains.

"Starting December 4, 2016, every new Jio user will get Jio's data, voice, video and the full bouquet of Jio applications," said Mukesh Ambani, the owner of Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) , Reliance Jio 's parent company, during a televised address. "These will be absolutely free till March 31, 2017." (See RJio's 'Free' Strategy: Success or Failure?)

Besides updating on customer numbers, RJio has also revealed that 80% of its subscribers use up to 1GB of data on a daily basis, with the other 20% using disproportionately more. To cope with demands, the operator has put a limit of 1GB on daily consumption, reducing connection speeds to just 128 Kbit/s once customers exceed it. RJio has subsequently come under attack for having one of the lowest 4G speeds in the country, based on data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) .

The extension of the free data services offer was not unexpected. While RJio's rate of growth looks impressive, the company is unlikely to meet its target of capturing 100 million users by December. Many customers have joined the RJio network to avail themselves of free data services, but continued to make use of rival operators, especially as 4G connection speeds have fallen. Customers have also reported difficulties in making voice calls due to interconnection issues. (See RJio gears up to bring digital life to India.)

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To shore up interest, RJio is planning to launch a number of new services over the next few months. This week it took the wraps off a mobile wallet offering called Jio Money Merchant Solution. That could receive a boost from "demonetization" efforts by India's government, which recently took 500- and 1,000-rupee notes out of usage, although RJio faces competition in this market from Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL), India's biggest operator.

"This solution provides access to Jio's suite of services, including customized offerings such as digital money, for a very important segment of the Indian economy," said RJio in a press release. "This will enable digital transactions of all types, whether they be at Mandis, small shops, restaurants, railway ticket counter, for bus and mass transit and even for person-to-person money transfers."

— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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