RJio Prepares for Take-Off

Reliance Jio appears to be tying up various loose ends as it prepares to launch its 4G service in December this year.

Controlled by Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani, the operator recently procured a multi-system operator (MSO) license that will allow it to use fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) technology to offer a range of services, including TV, Internet connectivity and wireless access.

RJio has also acquired a majority stake in Network 18, which operates 17 news channels, 14 entertainment channels and an Internet business as well.

"By 2017/18, it will be the most integrated TV/mobile content in India," said Ambani when discussing plans for Network 18 at a recent annual general meeting.

RJio will, of course, be competing against other MSOs, including Hathway Cable & Datacom Pvt. Ltd. , Digicable Network (India) Pvt. Ltd. and DEN Satellite. Perhaps with that in mind, it has also hired SN Sharma, the former CEO of DEN Networks, as part of its leadership team.

There is also speculation that RJio might apply for a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) license, allowing it to offer voice services to its mobile customers.

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The operator is expected to launch 4G services using a combination of technologies -- with service offerings likely to include voice, high-speed broadband, media and payment services and digital commerce -- and VoIP could provide the voice solution the company is looking for. (See RJio Moves Closer to 4G Launch .)

Devices: the new battleground
But RJio still faces major impediments to its launch of 4G technology, including the current shortage of low-cost 4G devices. (See 4G Devices Hit Affordability Mark in India.)

The operator hopes to spur manufacturers to produce devices that can be sold for as little as 4,000 Indian rupees (US$62.90) per unit.

This could be hugely disruptive given it took almost two years for the cost of a 3G device to fall to about INR5,000 (US$78.60).

Meanwhile, archrival Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) is believed to be in negotiations with manufacturers over the development of low-cost devices that will operate on both 3G and 4G networks. Its aim is to begin offering these devices by October or November -- several weeks before RJio finally launches its 4G service. (See Airtel 4G Gathers Momentum in India .)

Bharti Airtel is also deploying a 4G network across India and intends to cover as many cities as possible before RJio switches on its own 4G network.

— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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