Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Communications has put up a banner on its website with the words “Upgrade to 4G Coming Soon”, indicating that the company will indeed start rolling out its 4G services early next month.
UPDATE: The company has also started sending SMS to CDMA users — particularly in cities like Mumbai and Delhi — asking them to call 1299 from their handsets if they want to upgrade to a 4G SIM and get more details about the launch. You can try calling if you have an RCom CDMA connection.
RCom has been seeing poor growth due to its lack of 4G.
As recently as five quarters ago, Reliance Communications used to be the biggest wireless data service provider in India, but has been quickly overtaken by Bharti Airtel in the last one year due to the launch of 4G.
For the three months ended December 2014, both RCom and Bharti Airtel sold 77 bln MB of data. However, a year later, RCom was at 103 bln while Airtel had zoomed to 134 bln MBs — a huge gap considering where the two where just a year ago.
WILL JIO 4G LAUNCH SAVE RCOM?
The emergence of 4G has really disrupted Reliance Communications as it had traditionally depended on wireless data to keep its growth going even as the use of CDMA handsets for voice declined.
RCom is the cheapest and most widespread provider of high-speed wireless data in India, and offers rates of around Rs 25 per GB for relatively high-volume users, while companies like Vodafone, Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular do not offer rates cheaper than Rs 125 per GB.
While others have been reporting excellent growth in profits due to the ongoing data boom, RCom has seen its finances remain stagnant.
It is in this context that Anil Ambani’s elder brother Mukesh Ambani is getting ready to launch his 4G services across the country in the next two weeks under his Reliance Jio brand.
Once that is launched, RCom will be able to use the same network to serve its customers with 4G services as Jio uses some of RCom’s spectrum for its network. Under a sharing agreement between the two companies, they will share three bands of 4G — 850 (band 5), 1800 (band 3) and 2300 (band 40).
While the 850 band will be used mainly for voice services, the 1800 band will be primarily used for data coverage and the 2300 band for providing extra capacity where data usage is very high.
At present, Reliance Communications offers a postpaid tariff of Rs 999 (plus tax) for 40 GB, which works out to Rs 25 per GB plus tax.
In fact, in four states, it even offers a ‘truly unlimited’ plan for Rs 999. Under this tariff plan, customers’ access speeds are not reduced after they’ve consumed any particular threshold quantity, unlike in other ‘FUP’ plans.
In prepaid, RCom’s cheapest tariff is 45 GB for Rs 3000, which works out to Rs 66.66 per GB.
It is expected that RCom will maintain most of its tariff plans even after it migrates its users from CDMA to 4G LTE.
This would also give some idea about the kind of tariffs that Reliance Jio is likely to offer. If, for example, Jio emulates RCom’s 40-GB-for-999 offer, it would have huge repercussions for operators like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone as heavy data users will migrate to the new network in droves.
Mukesh Ambani has already promised that Jio’s tariffs will be such that it will enable regular customers to watch video on the cellphone network. At present, ordinary folks are not able to watch video using their cellular networks due to the high cost of wireless data.
Though SIM cards have been pushed to stockists, outlets are awaiting a final green signal from Jio before starting their sales.
UPDATE: Reliance Jio’s tariff details have leaked via a website screencast.