In a sincere sense, Reliance Jio has had a very mixed sort of love/hate relationship with the Indian consumers. Some dislike the company because it disrupted the market and sent many players back to the pavilion - into early retirement. But then some appreciate the role of a 'hero' Jio played by bringing a digital revolution to India. This sort of relationship will most likely always be there, and at the end of the day, Jio won't be worried about it as it already has the love of more than 400 million Indian customers. With 5G, Jio could again do what it did in 2016-2017.
The company has stayed very silent about most of the work it has been doing on 5G. It could mean two very different things. First, Jio was afraid to make announcements because it wasn't catching up with the targets, or second, Jio was so much ahead of the competition that it never really wanted them to get an idea about what it was trying to do. Most likely, it could be the second thing here.
Jio is an intelligent player. The company has always tried to do something new and chart new paths instead of following a traditional and old model of making things work. However, Jio's 5G plans are not yet confirmed as the company hasn't really laid out a strategy for the public and is obviously not expected to do so. But one thing is for sure: Jio will be very aggressive with the 5G rollout.
Spectrum Portfolio of Jio is Class Apart
Akash Ambani led telco has the kind of spectrum portfolio that none of its competitors does. So whatever Airtel or Vodafone Idea (Vi) may say about not requiring 700 MHz to offer 5G, we all know that Jio has a big advantage over them. With the 700 MHz spectrum, Jio can offer 5G services in rural areas at a much lower cost than the other telcos. Further, with the sub-GHz spectrum for 5G, Jio will be able to deliver the best indoor coverage to customers, resulting in a market share gain.
Akash Ambani had hinted that Jio would launch 5G services on August 15, 2022. However, the telco hasn't given the public anything more than this one statement to believe it would happen. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is on track to provide the 5G spectrum to the telcos by August 12, 2022. So it will be a very short time for the telcos to rollout 5G in a three-day period leading up to August 15.
If Jio is again on the aggressive front with 5G and Airtel and Vi take more time to counter, Jio will end up eating the maximum market share. One thing that could make Airtel and Vi feel safe is that the 5G smartphone penetration in India is still in the early phase. So, Jio won't have a lot of ready consumers. But still, Jio would be able to build trust on a scale that Airtel or Vi might not be able to.
Jio has enough spectrum to rollout 5G in every state of India. That itself is something that should make the competitors slightly nervous. On the other hand, Jio already has enough brand trust to command users to upgrade to 5G as fast as possible. But what will be worth looking out for is the performance Jio's 5G networks can deliver.
If the service is satisfactory, Jio will again get an opportunity to destabilise Airtel and Vi. Airtel is still in a comfortable position as of now. But for Vi, it will be a nightmare. Not that the competitors will just sit and watch. Of course, Airtel and Vi must have their strategies. So it is not just about executing it first, but also executing it right. Jio will have to be very careful of the promises it makes to the customers.
Jio Has a Solid Business to back 5G Plans
One thing that no one could dispute is that Jio has built a very solid business. Solid enough to make its 5G plans a very big success. There are already millions of users in every part of the country who would be looking to experience what 5G feels like. Jio could be the one to bring them that experience first.
This is both an exciting and a nervous time for the Indian telecom sector. What will happen, only time will tell. For now, let us know in the comments what you feel about Jio's strategy.