The initial sales of Reliance Jio connections will be restricted to Reliance Digital outlets with the twin aim of kickstarting the sales of LYF branded devices and subjecting the network to more extensive testing, according to multiple sources.
During this phase — which will most probably start this weekend, there will be only one tariff plan and no voice service. (We had, a week ago, reported that voice is unlikely to be launched initially.)
Reliance has millions (estimate: 3-5 mln) LYF branded devices that are waiting to be sold. At an average of Rs 8,000 per device, that translates to an investment of Rs 2,500 to 4,000 cr.
The specifications of these devices were finalized last year, and Reliance group started importing them in December in bulk quantities from China.
The high-to-mid range devices are built around the Snapdragon 615 and 616 chipsets from Qualcomm. Since then, Qualcomm has introduced the Snapdragon 650 and 652 chipsets, which contain more advanced Cortex A72 technology compared to the 615 and 616.
The Snapdragon 652 chipset — which is also octa-core like 615 and 616 — is about 70% more powerful compared to the 615/616.
Already, handsets based on 650 and 652 are starting to come to the market, including the Samsung Galaxy A9, Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 and LeEco Le 2s, and any further delay in selling LYF handsets could prove to be very costly for the company.
SINGLE TARIFF, NO VOICE
At the same time, Reliance Jio is still in the final stage of getting its third-party (non Reliance Digital) distribution in place, and this will take up to the end of April to be ready.
Implementation of voice will also take a few more days.
As a result, the company is, according to our sources, going for a two-stage process. In stage one, which begins next week, sales will be restricted to SIM cards bundled with LYF handsets and MiFi devices.
In stage two, there will be open sale via third party distributors and small retailers.
The first stage will not have any voice component, while the second stage — which involves open sale of SIM cards — will have voice support — including both from its partners as well as its own VoLTE service.
During the first stage, those who are interested in getting a Reliance Jio connection will have to buy a LYF MiFi device or a dual-SIM LYF handset. The customer has to continue to use his existing operator for making voice calls, while dedicating the Jio SIM for accessing data.
In addition, there will be no tariff plans to choose from. The customer will get a certain quantity of free 4G data when he or she buys a LYF handset or MiFi device. This will be credited to his or her Jio account every month.
UPDATE: A screenshot of the company’s recharging app has leaked, suggesting that buyers of the MiFi device will get 40 GB of free data, and 200 GB for ‘network testing’. Read more.
The second stage is expected to start around the end of April or early May, depending on the results of the first stage. The first stage will help the company iron out any network problems, and help resolve last-minute voice-related hangups.
An independent distributor confirmed the plans, and said he was hoping that the company launches open sales very soon.
“We won’t get any benefit if there is no open sale,” he said, adding that company officials have already suggested that Jio will start SIM sales by bundling it with LYF handsets. The SIMs will be tied the handset and will not work on non-LYF handsets.
“I think ads (for LYF handsets with bundled data) will start next week,” he added.