Like its LYF branded handsets, the Wifi hotspot device will also carry free data for 90 days under Jio’s preview offer, according to a photo of a leaflet shared by the anonymous tipster.
However, this new Wifi device is not the same as the Mifi gadget that has been in the news for long.
Going by the looks, it won’t come with a built-in battery, but will flaunt a separate, external antenna.
In fact, players like Tata Indicom and Tikona also offer similar equipment where the signal transmitter is placed outside the house or the apartment — usually on the roof.
In addition to the difference in the underlying technology — others use 4G Wimax while Reliance Jio works on 4G LTE — another key difference is that Jio is bundling a free Wifi router with the transceiver.
In case of the old external 4G equipment installed by Tikona, BSNL and Tata Indicom, the user had to buy his own Wifi router, or use his laptop’s Wifi card as a hotspot. The earlier ‘external CPEs’ used to give their output in the form of an ethernet cable, but Jio will also give a free Wifi router that will be placed inside the home and connected to the rooftop 4G transceiver using ethernet cable, the report said.
The whole system will be called JioLink | Indoor Wifi.
Before you jump for joy, note that the set up suffers from certain limitations.
First, unlike Jio’s Mifi and cheap LYF phones device, JioLink Home Wifi is unlikely to come with built-in battery despite costing more or less the same.
This means that even if you have a laptop or phone that can work during power cuts, your Internet may not.
Secondly — unlike a smartphone being used as a hotspot or a Mifi device — this arrangement will be pretty difficult to move in case you want to relocate it to another room for better signal.
The actual 4G transceiver — which does the job of sending and receiving data from the network — will be placed in the ‘line of sight’ of the nearest Jio tower.
Going by how this works in case of Tikona and others, this means a fixed placement usually involving the use of screws, clamps and sometimes even metal poles.
However, depending on how the indoor Wifi unit is placed and how long the ethernet cable is, it may be possible to move the router for better reception.
In contrast, a Mifi device or a LYF handset can easily be moved from one room to another — or even to a car or bus — to suit the convenience of the user. So, unless you really suffer from signal issues, you’re better off with a cheap handset or Mifi.
WHO IS IT FOR?
Going by the poster shared by the tipster, it looks like the JioLink Indoor Wifi is targeted at rural customers and enterprise users.
In rural areas, the signal strength of Jio’s network could be expected to be very weak, particularly in the main capacity band of 2.3 GHz (band 40).
Though the voice-oriented band 5 may be available indoors as well, the band has capacity constraints due to the lower quantity of spectrum involved.
This indicates the second reason why these devices are being introduced. These could prevent heavy data users from clogging ‘coverage’ bands like bands 5 and 3, which are crucial for providing voice services.
Due to the way most handsets are configured, they automatically latch on to the band in which the signals are the strongest — especially when higher band 40 signals are considered inadequate — as is usually the case in indoor situations.
Besides homes in remote areas, the second category of users who could benefit from JioLink would be enterprises — such as offices and shops — that need consistent and high speeds.
To ensure high throughput, the JioLink device will have a unidirectional antenna — a bit like those used for FM radio — pointed towards the nearest 4G tower. This ensures much better signal strength — and consequently higher data throughput — compared to the omnidirectional antennas on MiFi devices and handsets.
“With the unidirectional antenna on JioLink, you are in the direct line of sign which ensures that you never suffer loss of True 4G signal,” the brochure says.
According to the report, JioLink connections — which will be installed by company representatives — will start becoming available in Reliance Digital stores “starting this week”. Like LYF handsets, JioLink connections also come with three months of unlimited use.
Given that the product can only be used in a static location, it is almost certain that the tariffs and plans for the same will be cheaper than those for mobile phones and Mifi devices.
In fact, if tariffs are kept the same, many users are likely to prefer the convenience and portability of Mifis and handsets instead of going for such a device, unless they are in a really low-signal area and need an antenna to catch the signal.
In addition, given that these devices are being installed ‘line of sight’, they are likely to be restricted to only Band 40 to prevent bands 3 and 5 being overwhelmed by heavy, home data users.
Band 40 has about 3-4 times the capacity of band 5 and band 3 as it has two-three times as much spectrum as the other two bands.
Though Airtel also has band 40, it uses the band primarily as a capacity band for its dongle and mobile users.