lyfReliance Jio is reported to be getting ready to sell its first SIM cards tomorrow, but only for those who buy its devices such as LYF handsets and Mifi wireless internet hotspots.

According to a person working in the company, the operator is gearing up to sell its first bundled SIM cards on Monday. Reliance Digital has been giving its employees training in filling out and uploading customer acquisition forms over the last one week.

UPDATE: Retail sales did not start today, only distributor sale have started. The company started pushing SIM cards into its third-party distribution network today. For details, see this.

“In most of the places, it will be via LYF handset sales only,” he said, adding that he was not sure whether or not Mifi devices will be available or not.

With this, Reliance Jio — which started test running its network four months ago by giving free SIM cards to its employees — will enter the second of the three stages of its network ramp.

Jio is expected to go through three stages of ramp up before achieving full commercial operations. The first stage was the employee trial, the second will be SIM bundling which will bring in non-employees into the network testing stage, and finally open sale of SIM cards.

While the first stage took three months, it is not clear how long the second stage — bundled SIM card sales — will last.

Though there are social media reports that Reliance Digital stores are promising or have already sold unactivated SIM cards on a standalone basis (without bundling), according to our sources, the company is unlikely to offer standalone SIMs.

The intention behind the second stage is to subject the network to more extensive testing. The first stage involved around 3-4 lakh SIM cards, while the second stage will involve millions of connections.Reliance has imported millions of handsets and Mifi dongles.

The purpose behind the second stage is to subject the network to extensive testing, but at the same time not generate bad publicity due to various factors such as unavailability of SIM cards, unavailability of voice service, poor data speeds, lack of network coverage etc..

Starting of open SIM sales — without the requirement to buy either a LYF handset or Mifi device — will lead to a huge rush of customers eager to buy the product, and this could create exactly the kind of problems that Jio is keen to avoid.

On the other hand, restricting the sale of SIMs to those who buy LYF handsets and Mifi devices will ensure that demand is able to be met by supply. On the other hand, if only the SIM was being sold, it would be able to bundle only a couple of GB of free data, which will not help in really testing the network. SIMs are typically sold for less than Rs 100 in India, while the cheapest LYF handset costs Rs 5,000.

On the other hand, by bundling SIM and data with devices, Reliance Jio can give a huge amount of free data with limited validity. This would force the buyer to consume the data within the stipulated time, thus helping test the network effectively. According to the latest indications, people who buy LYF or Mifi devices will get anywhere between 30-240 GB of data free, but there is no final word on what the tariff plan will be like. See our earlier story on this.

To find the nearest Reliance Digital store, you can use the store locator from Reliance.

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