Reliance Jio’s Voice and its Data Strategy: Our Take

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Reliance JIO Infocomm Logo_bigSince its inception in Indian telecom, Reliance Industry's telecom arm Jio (formerly Infotel Broadband) is always on the news for the right reasons.  Reliance Jio has created so much hype in the country to change the country's digital vision that at present the competition is actually with themselves, to deliver what they promised.

Though 4G is already launched in India by Airtel for more than one and half years it is not gaining that momentum which was expected, Reliance Jio keeps the hype of 4G alive. Reliance Jio is very much secretive about their plans, strategy and collaborations. But somehow Jio manages to be in the news and keeps the people waiting for 4G. This can be explained as 'pre launch customer acquisition'.

Reliance Jio's greenfield entry in the telecom market is probably one of the toughest business plan across the globe. They are starting it from a scratch , but perfectly backed up with Reliance Industries' huge moneyload. They took a middle path - not totally asset light or not totally depending on passive infra providers. Reliance Jio is setting up own towers, laying own OFC network and establishing a submarine OFC network with global partnerships.

Before we discuss data, let's talk on voice. Reliance will launch voice services, that's for sure. They spent money to get unified licenses, bagged tons of mobile numbers and was cleared for mobile number portability. And Indian market is yet to move on to data, major part of revenue is still coming from the voice.

But VoLTE over 2300MHz does not seem good, as 2.3GHz band can offer patchy coverage in indoor and outdoor, which will affect the voice services. Also VoLTE is yet to mature, in most of the cases operators use fallback mechanism to offer voice (during voice call the signal drops to 2G/3G from 4G).

Internet voice or IP based voice services is not the exact replacement to traditional voice services and more importantly it requires customer awareness to shift on. Already many video/audio chat services are alive and people use it and to grab a pie from it means Jio have to push customers to use Jio's own IM services, which would be a pathetic decision.

As Reliance Jio participated in the ongoing 2G auction for 900 MHz and 1800 MHz band, and probably they are bidding fiercely to grab spectrum to leave no stone to offer voice services. 900MHz can also be using for HSPA900 or 3G services, but Reliance Jio is expected to skip 3G as they has LTE/4G. However 5MHz in 900MHz and 1800MHz band with 20MHz in 2300MHz band will help them for carrier aggregation to roll out LTE-Advanced in future.  At present Jio is deploying LTE-TDD over 2300MHz band, but 1800MHz band can help them to roll out LTE-FDD services also. LTE1800 has a stronger ecosystem than any other LTE ecosystem. So Jio can have dual mode LTE networks also.

Reliance Jio is bidding at their best to grab maximum pie of 900MHz and 1800MHz, which might lead to high spectrum price to incumbents and newer players who have participated in the auction. But it can not lead to tariff hike as Jio is to enter in another 4-6 months. And Jio will definitely start a tariff war in this price sensitive market.

Also offering 2G services on 900MHz and 1800MHz means existing mobile customers can easily port out from other service providers and jump into Reliance Jio. These ported-in customers can use mobile broadband over WiFi on their smartphones. Jio's new customers will definitely buy 4G-LTE supported smartphones.

plans in nutshell

Promotion of WiFi: Bridge LTE to Existing Devices

Reliance Jio have to promote WiFi, as LTE on 2300MHz can not offer total patch-less coverage. Not only that existing smartphone users will not move to Reliance Jio 4G, they may ported in as 2G voice customers, but what about their data services. WiFi bridges there. Reliance Jio will offer MiFi Devices which are actually bridge between Jio 4G network and your existing WiFi enabled devices. With strong OFC coverage Reliance Jio will be a WiFi service provider, that means even you are not a Jio mobile user can buy data and use Jio WiFi on the go. With same log in you can enjoy Jio's WiFi at any part of India.

Jio will bring the entire ecosystem based on smart devices, I don't think they have any plan to place basic handset users, who are voice-only customers in their network. Such customers will be shifted to data users by many ways.

Reliance Jio has made several Android apps, which we saw on our review. Jio Play (live TV) and Video on Demand will drive the major change in user's habit to optimise data growth. Jio showcased its own cloud service - Jio Drive. Jio Drive will enable customers to get their data from anywhere. There are more data hungry apps from them - Jio World, Health App, Jio Mag etc. Jio also associated with several state governments or local city officials to offer them live security feed of the traffic and roads.

Let me make it clear - Reliance Jio do want to be Google or Verizon of India - to offer bouquet of services and it's cafeteria choice - you can choose anything you want from the offerings. That's why waiting for the best thing is worthy. With 2G spectrum bagged in, Jio will not take any extra time to launch its digital services (rather than a mere data offerings). As we can expect it might launch services before December 2014.

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