Reliance Jio is fast appointing distributors for its SIM cards across the country and giving them a working target of launching commercial 4G services early in March, according to one person who signed up as a distributor this week.
“They’re promising supply of dongles and SIMs in February and saying that commercial launch will take place either in the same month or maximum by early March,” said a distributor who inked his agreement with the company this month.
“The primary reason why they’re delaying is because they are currently at about 70% coverage versus the biggest player in the market, and they want to take it to at least 90% just with their 4G network,” said the distributor.
The distributor gave further details of cell tower numbers that seemed to indicate that Jio has already overtaken nearly everyone in the number of towers except the top two. “They want to get a few more towers up before launch,” he added.
The distributor, who has not been provided free testing SIMs yet, said he will start approaching retail shops by around the 20th of this month to canvas them to stock Reliance Jio SIMs.
Rs 700 MIFI Device
Confirming our earlier report, the distributor said Jio will offer a MiFi device and 10 GB of data for Rs 700.
The cheapest MIFI device offer in the market is from Bharti Airtel, which offers 10 GB of 4G data and a Huawei E5573s MiFi device for Rs 1500.
The distributor was not sure whether the Jio device will contain a battery like the Huawei E5577.
He also said that the officials did not share 4G tariff plans with him, but promised that they will be path breaking.
“If they are selling a device and 10 GB of data for Rs 700, I am sure their recharges will also be very competitive,” he said.
Another distribution source had last month indicated that the operator will offer 10 GB of 4G data for Rs 600.
However, industry experts feels that the operator is likely to price the 10 GB pack as low as Rs 499 for the first year with the intention of reaching its target of having 10 cr subscribers by the end of the first 12 months.
This target of 100 mln subscribers in one year was reiterated by Mukesh Ambani, the promoter of Reliance Industries, when he soft launched the service a week ago.
“Jio has aggressively target Internet users as the number of 4G phones that support voice over LTE (required for making voice calls on Jio’s network) is not that high,” said one expert.
Though the company is likely to offer fallback solutions with the help of Reliance Communications’ network, the latter does not have coverage that is anywhere comparable to what incumbents like Airtel and Idea Cellular offer in most circles.
In fact, said the distributor mentioned above, Jio’s 4G coverage will be bigger and better than the 2G coverage of most players.
There is incredible demand for broadband Internet across India, particularly in the rural areas where wired Internet is yet to reach.
Though cable companies were supposed to provide cheap wired broadband across the country, they failed to live up to the expectations due to the extreme fragmentation of the industry. Unlike foreign countries where a handful of cable companies own most of the subscribers, in India, there are hundreds of thousands of cable operators.
Since each of them has only a few thousand customers, they are unable to put in the necessary investment required to provide broadband through cable. This has left the market wide open for an ambitious and well-capitalized player like Reliance Jio.