Game changer Jio Phone Takes on Multi-Nationals

Announced on 21 July by Mukesh Ambani, this device is expected to create a tsunami in the telecom industry. Why? Because it is for free

Letter from New Delhi

It’s a game changer. The proposed new mobile, Jio Phone, is a game changer in many ways. Announced on 21 July by Reliance chairman Mukesh Ambani, India’s top industrialist, this device is expected to create a tsunami in the telecom industry. Why? Because it is for free. Yes, free except for a deposit of Rs. 1,500 ($ 23) repayable after three years. The monthly payment will be just Rs 153 ($2.35) with free calls.

The majority of phone users in India do not have smart phones due to their high price, said Mukesh Ambani estimating them at half a billion. Not only are they unable to get access to high-speed Internet and free voice calls, but they are also out of reach for government information and services and e-banking.

With 4G, this phone will enable them to get all these facilities with unlimited high-speed data. It has many smart phone features like SMS, music, movies, free voice calling and commands in 22 Indian languages; so you can send messages, place calls, search the Web using voice commands. You can also pay your bills from a linked bank account. With an optional cable, you can connect it to a TV. Booking for this phone starts on 24 August and the phone will be sent in September, made in India by Indian vendors.

This will inflict a mortal blow to the mobile market of one billion Indian users, now dominated by Chinese products. Three Indian brands with a small market share will also take a big hit. Equally, the service providers will also be rammed. These service providers have already lowered their charges after the launch of Jio 4G service last September and grabbed over 120 million users. Now he after 500 million and more. Content is not a problem for Reliance as the company owns a major TV channel and has shares in a major TV and movie production company.

With this launch, Reliance has taken on scores of multi-nationals in mobile phones and service providers who dominate the Indian market. No wonder some experts are apprehensive about its success. As this company also plans for bringing world-class optic-fibre connectivity across India for homes, small businesses ad enterprises.

This project dovetails into the Modi government initiatives such as Digital India, Make in India, Smart Cities, among others. Using technology, it will deliver governance to the poorest people in the farthest rural areas thus reaching out with government information and services to help them for a better standard of life. With unlimited high-speed internet in their hands, even though they may be illiterate, they are connected. If they cannot access all the information they need and/or perform the tasks on their mobiles, they can always get help from their teenage children with better understanding of digital devices. “Data is the new oil,” quips Mukesh Ambani.

Reliance is a game changer. It founder, Dhirubhai Ambani, introduced polythene to shake the textile industry in the 70s and then entered the oil and gas sectors and now his eldest son Mukesh is foraying into telecom and digitization for again changing the game.

Kul Bhushan worked as a newspaper Editor in Nairobi for over three decades and now lives in New Delhi 

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