As the ‘D Day’ of Reliance Jio’s launch approached, there was palpable excitement among the high-speed data users of the country.
Finally, they said, they will be freed of the Rs 250-per-GB tyranny of the incumbent operator(s). (We’re using ‘operator(s)’ here because though there are three big operators, their pricing was more or less the same.)
It was expected that Jio will not only offer the cheapest 4G data service, but its offering will also be priced at just a fraction of what the others were charging.
Yet, on the day of the announcement, it was revealed that the new operator’s prices are actually pretty comparable to what is there in the market right now (see chart below).
Not surprisingly, there are many WhatsApp messages that claim to ‘expose’ the high price that Jio is charging, despite claiming that its service is the cheapest in the world and so on.
So, Did Jio Fail to Deliver on Data?
First, let’s look at what both sides are saying. On Jio’s part, the company claims that data costs only Rs 50 per GB, and if you are heavy user, it comes to as little as Rs 25 per GB.
This is a bit of marketing speak, and true only if you are someone who uses a lot of data between 2 am to 5 am. Under the company’s terms and conditions, it has made it clear that ‘users can make unlimited downloads’ only between 2 am and 5 am. During these three hours, you are free to download as much as you want, and if you do, the average cost will come down to Rs 25-50 per GB.
On the other hand, if — like me — you don’t have any plans to use data between 2 am and 5 am, then you’ll be paying between Rs 125 to Rs 67 per GB even if you’re subscribed to their most expensive plans.
Most of the WhatsApp and FB messages are pegged on this point — that the company is not delivering the promised Rs 25-50 per GB tariff, and that the headline of ‘Rs 50 per GB’ was misleading and just clever marketing. Since ‘marketing’ doesn’t have a good reputation in India, this cannot be seen as a compliment.
Given that Airtel offers 10 GB of data at Rs 640 per month and both Idea and Vodafone offer the same at Rs 999, Jio’s 4G rates — which quotes 10 GB at Rs 999 — suddenly don’t look very pathbreaking compared with those of the others.
So, does this mean that Jio is all hype and marketing, and no substance?
It is easy to dismiss the Jio as a marketing hype-led phenomenon with no real value or impact for data users.
But doing so would be to overlook the company’s real impact on the market.
To assess this, just recollect what Airtel, Vodafone and Idea were charging till two months ago, which is when Jio started expanding its preview offer. They were giving about 6 GB for Rs 1,000 and 10 GB for Rs 1,500.
They reduced their rates to 10 GB for Rs 999 in July, but because of one primary reason — the impending launch of RJio. Without such a threat, India would still be paying an average of Rs 220 per GB for data from these dominant operators.
Thanks to the new entrant and the competition it brought about, we would now be paying an average of Rs 125 per GB — a reduction of 44%.
If you’re an Airtel customer, your savings would be even higher.
So, yes, Airtel is certainly cheaper than Jio for those who use only data, but it is Jio which is responsible for changing the market in such a way that these kind of offers are possible or even thinkable.
The true impact of the Ambani firm’s launch has to be gauged from what its rivals offer, and not just from the tariff that it has published.
And in doing so, RJio’s launch has been a spectacular success, and something we must all be thankful to the company for.