Reliance Jio GigaFiber, the new wired broadband and cable TV service from India’s biggest telecom operator by volumes, is likely to offer free cable TV and high-speed broadband for Rs 500 per month.
The customer is likely to have to make an initial upfront payment of around Rs 3,000, which would enable him to avail the above services for a period of six months without further payments. He is also likely to get a free fiber modem with the scheme.
At present, rival operators charge Rs 3,000 in the form of installation and modem charges, and also collect monthly fees in addition.
The 500-rupee broadband plan is likely to come with a cap of 200 GB per month, while the bundled, free cable TV plan will contain most of the basic channels required in the local market.
For example, the bundled offering in Kerala would contain the main Malayalam entertainment and movie channels, such as Asianet and Surya, but may not contain high-end or niche channels like Star Sports Select HD.
In addition to the basic offering — which is likely to keep most customers happy — subscribers would be able to upgrade both their broadband as well as their cable TV plans.
The prices of these higher-end plans are not known, but truly unlimited plans are likely to cost in the range of Rs 1,000-1,200 per month. Basic cable TV plans are likely to come free with all broadband plans, with paid upgrades possible for access to premium channels.
In addition to the above, Reliance Jio GigaFiber is also likely to come with free content services such as JioCinema as well as voice calling, video-calling and conferencing via a built-in web-camera.
What is not clear yet is whether the GigaFiber set-top-box will support third-party applications like Netflix, Hotstar, Zee5 and Amazon Prime Video.
However, given the current extensive app-level tie-up between Jio and content providers such as Zee and Star, at least some of these apps — such as Zee5 and Hotstar — are likely to be supported, either as standalone apps or as portions within Jio apps such as JioCinema.
This is all the more likely as Jio has to depend on content providers like Star, Zee and Balaji Telefilms to make sure that the GigaFiber box can offer services like channel rewind, catch-up TV and video-on-demand.
These advanced features require special permission from content providers like Star and Zee, who may not be in a mood to provide such permissions if their own apps and platforms are not supported by Jio’s GigaFiber TV box.
GigaFiber’s primary competitors, DTH players like Airtel Digital and Tata Sky, have already started supporting third-party apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Zee5, on their set-top-boxes. Where such support is not possible, they have started bundling separate boxes or sticks that do support such apps, such as Amazon Fire Stick on Tata Sky.
In anticipation of the launch of GigaFiber, expected to be announced via Mukesh Ambani’s speech at the annual general meeting of Reliance Industries at 11 AM, Bharti Airtel has already announced plans to come up with a somewhat similar offering.
However, Airtel’s offering will be handicapped by the much smaller footprint of the company’s fiber broadband network.
The launch of Jio GigaFiber is expected to lead to a domino effect in the market, with rivals forced to either sell their business to a big player like Jio or Airtel, or to severely slash their own prices.
At present, unlimited fiber broadband plans cost around Rs 900 per month, excluding taxes, while TV channel packages cost Rs 220-350 per month.
The launch of Jio GigaFiber is likely to a massive shakeout in the cable and broadband sector in India, similar to what was seen in the US market with Comcast eventually emerging as a nationwide network.
At present, India has thousands of cable networks, some of which have only a couple of hundred households. Smaller operators would likely be forced to sell their business to larger companies such as Bharti Airtel, Jio and Vodafone Idea.
Among the biggest losers from the launch would be state-owned telecom network Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd or BSNL, which is already making thousands of crores of rupees of losses per year.