Reliance Jio chairman Mukesh Ambani announced the JioPhone, which aims to bring smartphone features to the candybar form factor.

The phone will be given to anyone if they deposit Rs 1500 with the company. The user will get the Rs 1500 back when the device is returned after 36 months.

“Net net, you pay nothing for the phone,” Ambani said.

The phone will be available for booking starting Aug 24, and sales will start in September. Five million Jiophones will be sold every week.

“All Indians will be free from extortionist data charges,” he said, taking a swipe at rivals like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone.

Jiophone will offer unlimited data and voice calls for Rs 153 per month.

It will also offer a TV connectivity feature that converts the phone into a set-top-box.

The interconnection and cable will work with any TV with AV in ports.

The 1 GB per day pack will last for 3-4 hours per day of TV viewing using the phone, Mukesh Amabni said.

JIOPHONE FEATURES

The phone will support both voice commands and keyboard. For example, saying ‘call mother’ will lead to the phone calling the number saved as ‘mother’.

The phone converts speech to text for SMS and text messaging, helping people send text messages by speaking into the phone.

It supports Internet search, including via voice.

All of Jio’s apps like JioMusic, JioTV, JioCinema are present on the device. The apps can be launched by voice command.

The speaker on the phone is more powerful than regular phones.

It has support for NFC or near field communications for mobile payment, and will support UPI payment, credit and debit card.

QUOTES FROM THE SPEECH

Jiophone is the most advanced featurephone.

We are reinventing the featurephone, an unmatched Indian innovation — the JioPhone.

Featurephone users are currently paying Rs 1.2 to 1.5 per minute and Rs 4,000-8,000 per GB for data.

By September, there will be 10,000 offices across the country for sales and distribution.

Will overtake the 2G coverage put up by competitors in 25 years in just three years.

In the next 12 months, Jio network will cover 99% of the population of India. India’s 4G coverage will be more than it’s 2G coverage. 

Out of the 78 cr mobile phones in India, 50 cr are feature phones. We will end the data scarcity of feature phone users today.

Jio added seven customers per second every single day since launch.

Fastest adoption of any technology-based service anywhere in the world.

Total customer base now at 125 mln.

Many analysts believed that India can never be the largest data market in the world. Jio has proven them wrong.

Data consumptions went from 20 cr GBits per month to 120 cr GBits per month. Now, consumption is at 125 cr GBits of data per month.

Sceptics said free users will never convert to paid users. Jio customers proved them wrong.

100 mln of Jio customers are paying customers.

MORE EXPECTED

The move into cheap voice services is likely to further accentuate the pain for Jio’s rivals such as Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Vodafone.

These companies get about 80% of their profits from voice services, and currently charge about 30 paise per minute for voice calls and generate voice revenue of around Rs 150 per subscriber per month on average.

With the new offering from Reliance, the incumbents would be forced to reduce their 350-per-month tariff to Rs 250 or even Rs 200. This would effectively half their operating profit and could push them into losses for several quarters.

To emerge out of these losses, they would have to depend on increasing their revenue from data services.

However, many of the telecom towers of the incumbents are not connected with high-speed backhaul cables, and cannot carry the kind of data required to compete with Jio. A single 4G tower could generate hundreds of Mbps of traffic.

According to the Ambani-led firm, only around 20% of the towers of the incumbents are connected with fiber, while 60% of Jio’s towers are fiberized and it would take the rivals years to catch up.

It is during this gap that the newcomer intends to emerge as a dominant player in both traffic and revenue.

On the other hand, the rivals too have started investing heavily into fiber, and looking at alliances to bridge the gap.

While Vodafone and Idea Cellular have decided to merge, Bharti Airtel is reportedly in talks with the Tata Group, which owns one of the biggest fiber networks in India, for a tie-up or merger.

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