India's Reliance Jio seems to be tying up a number of loose ends before the soft launch of its commercial 4G services, according to various media reports.
Having already made 4G services available to the employees of parent company Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) , the new entrant is now poised to launch a commercial service that covers about 70% of the country's population and will be available to around 90% of people by 2017, according to Mukesh Ambani, the chairman of Reliance Industries.
"From day one, we will look at providing 40 to 80 times faster Internet speeds than the current speed," Ambani said at an event today.
Reliance Jio is believed to have started shipping 4G SIMs, WiFi dongles and customer application forms (CAFs) to Reliance Digital Stores. Initially, the operator's SIM cards will be usable only on handsets sold under the Lyf brand, which are also being made available at Reliance Digital Stores.
A part of Reliance Industries, Reliance Digital Stores are prime vehicles for the sale of Lyf's voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) devices. While Lyf handsets are already available, they are to be sold along with RJio's 4G SIMs from April onwards.
RJio's plan is to offer high-speed 4G data plans to customers purchasing Lyf devices. Under an introductory offer, consumers will be able to use 10 gigabytes of data every month at 4G speeds, followed by unlimited browsing at speeds of just 256 Kbit/s. The bundled offer is likely to be available in a few cities initially and to include a free subscription to a variety of RJio applications.
However, conflicting reports are emerging regarding RJio's intentions. A few days ago, Bank of America Merrill Lynch was said to have indicated that RJio is likely to postpone the launch of 4G services to December 2016, because a VoLTE ecosystem is still insufficiently developed in India.
Most of the Indian service providers have already launched 4G services. Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL), India's largest telco, offers 4G in more than 300 towns and cities and is aggressively expanding to cope with RJio's launch. Vodafone India and Idea Cellular Ltd. , the number two and three players respectively, have also launched 4G services in many parts of the country.
Indeed, RJio is likely to face stiff competition from the existing operators, and has now lost any first-mover advantage. The company is planning to differentiate itself by calling its VoLTE services "True 4G," but the immaturity of VoLTE could hamper its plans. (See Lyf's Fate Depends on RJio's Launch.)
Nevertheless, India is an extremely price-sensitive market and RJio's launch could trigger a reduction in fees as the new entrant looks to compete aggressively against the market's more established players.
— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading