A delay to the launch of Reliance Jio's 4G services is having a nasty impact on Lyf, a Reliance Industries brand under which the Indian operator sells devices. (See RJio Sputters Into Lyf With 4G 'Launch'.)
Though technically Lyf is part of Reliance Retail, the largest electronics chain in India, it has been launched with the prime purpose of helping Reliance Jio to build a voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) ecosystem, with the Indian operator due to launch a commercial 4G service soon.
A key reason for the lukewarm response to Lyf is that devices have not yet been bundled with RJio's 4G services.
"Lyf's success, or lack of it, is inherently linked to the take-up of Reliance Jio's 4G LTE service," says Deepak Kumar, the founder analyst of B&M NXT. "I am of the view that even its [Lyf's] initial brand recognition would happen on the back of the RJio service and, depending on the customer experience, Lyf could then gain the potential to sustain as a standalone brand."
Complicating matters is the lack of clarity about a commercial launch date for RJio's 4G offering. As a result, customers are buying devices that do not have a 4G network to support them.
"Any delay to the commercial launch of the service will keep impacting Lyf sales too, and there is very little that Reliance Digital could do to offset that," says Kumar.
RJio plans to use VoLTE technology to support voice services on its 4G network. It also hopes VoLTE will help it differentiate its service from other 4G offerings in India. But not all 4G devices support VoLTE, and some devices may require a software update from the telco to enable this.
In India, specifically, very few handsets are currently VoLTE-compatible. Moreover, VoLTE calls are possible only when the person making the call and the one receiving it are on 4G networks, which have not yet been widely rolled out in India.
RJio remains the only Indian service provider to have ventured into the devices space. "Lyf aims to be a key player in the Indian smartphone market by offering cutting edge technology and a superior user experience -- the true 4G experience comprising HD Voice and video calling," said the company in a recent announcement about price reductions and the launch of new models.
Indian telcos like Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL), Vodafone India and Idea Cellular Ltd. have now launched 4G services in the country. Bharti Airtel claims its service is available in more than 300 towns and cities, while Vodafone and Idea each serve a much smaller number of markets. (See Indian Incumbents Risk Tripping in 4G Race.)
— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading