It has been nearly a month since India's richest man Mukesh Ambani announced his ambitious telecom project- digital services of Reliance Jio. Jio is different from all existing mobile operators of the country in many ways.
Jio is a completely green field operator which has only 4G-LTE network without any fall back 2G/3G network. And since its network went online it continues to offer services free of cost to its customers and will be free till 31st December 2016. Let's see how Jio changes the market.
Huge Footfall in Reliance Digital Stores
Reliance Digital stores are yet to make their mark as cheap stores for gadget lovers. We in Kolkata still depend on Chandni market or recently online stores. Reliance Digital stores initially had few visitors, however after Jio announced free SIM at Digital stores, people are now visiting these stores and crowding them. At my neighbourhood there is a queue lined up in front of Reliance Digital store. Interestingly the JIO-crazy people are heard to even be asking at Airtel stores for a JIO SIM.
JIO SIM Availability & Activation - Opening Shots Went Wrong
Jio started offering SIM cards to all free of cost with 3 months of unlimited usage from September 1st and promised for faster activation using e-KYC based authorization within 15 minutes. It created a massive surge of demand and Jio might not be prepared for it. Digital Stores faced a huge crowd and they are providing SIM cards in a rationing manner. It causes black market sale of the SIMs with a price upto Rs 1000. Reliance Digital stores in most circles did not have the e-authentication system, that also results in slow activation. However as Jio said they are installing e-KYC based systems across the country to wipe out such issues.
JIO's Unlimited Voice - Truly Unreliable
Jio is offering truly unlimited voice calls across the country, but I think most takers of Jio SIM are students or youngsters. The reason is India is a predominantly voice market and those who are professional can't rely on a network which has a huge number of call drops.
I call my friends over Jio, the call gets disconnected after 5 minutes (Call Drop). While calling to local numbers I hear the 'network busy' or 'all lines are busy' tone in at least 5-7 cases out of 10. Being a professional, Jio is not my preferred choice for voice calls. And as I have seen my colleagues (who are mostly doctors) are not kin to take a JIO SIM with so much hassle.
For the last few days, many times in a day Jio4GVoice (earlier Jio Join) is unable to connect to network even though data connectivity is there. The issues with Jio's 4G Voice are not only because of less number of Point of Interconnection but also due to the fact voice is just data moving through Jio's LTE network. There is no priority for voice on Jio's data only 4G network without any legacy 2G/3G network. At the same time the network is overburdened by huge customer base made in a small time.
Jio's Unlimited Data - Data ARPU of Others Will Decline
One thing is for sure, as Jio offers unlimited data (though Welcome offer caps daily LTE data usage at 4GB/day and then only 128Kbps) people who got JIO SIM will use Jio's LTE data and skip the data packs/plans on their primary operators. For eg, I was recharging my MTS no. twice a month for Rs 142 for data and last month I got my hands on JIO and since then I did not make a data recharge on my MTS no.
Incumbents Happy to Offer Better Speed to Keep High ARPU Users
Though Jio is there, some people don't care about cheap stuff. They will not take a JIO connection unless it is offered to them in person. So high spenders will continue to use their primary mobile numbers for voice as well data. The best part is they will now get better 3G/4G speed on their operator. In my experience I saw that Airtel's 3G in Kolkata has become much faster than before.
Jio LTE Speed is Falling, faster than I thought
I am using Jio for around 1 month and since last 2 days Jio's downlink seems to be lower than usual. Due to increased demand on Jio's LTE2300 network Jio may be transferring indoor users to LTE1800 & LTE850 networks which gave me pathetic speed. For the very first time Jio adopted a invite based customer acquisition - that was a pretty good idea for a new operator banking on LTE-only network as it gave them the opportunity for organic growth. On 1st September Mukesh Ambani announced launch of Jio services and made its LTE network open to all. As of now Jio has failed to handle both the SIM card demand as well as sudden surge of traffic load on its LTE network.
Impact on Voice Revenue of Other Operators
Though voice on Jio is unreliable at most of the time, you still can make calls at times. Even better, you can make calls over OTT app (eg : Whatsapp calls) without thinking about data usage. All operators voice revenue will take a hit in several ways - minutes of usage (MoU) will be reduced and they have to cut down STV prices.
It's obvious that Jio has a long way to go before we can predict the success of its strategic disruption of Indian telecom market. There is some rumor that Jio may extend its Welcome Offer (JWO) till March 2017 to iron out all problems in their network, distribution & sales as well as the issues caused by other operators. The more time it will take to stabilise, the more time rival networks will get to strengthen their own defence.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.