Reliance Jio’s ambitious pan-India 4G plans, after multiple delays this year, could be officially launched on 27 December in combination with its annual ‘founder’s day’ celebration, according to the Economic Times.
Reliance Industries sent employees an invitation to a “celebration” on 27 December, which actor Shah Rukh Khan will host and musician A R Rahman will give a performance. The event will mark founder Dhirubhai Ambani’s birthday on 28 December and will be telecast live across 1,000 locations.
An industry source told Mobile World Live that the invite was to an “employee celebration”. “What is going to happen on that day we really don’t know. It could be some kind of a launch, but I can’t confirm.”
But the Times was confident enough to run the headline this morning: “It’s confirmed! Reliance Jio 4G launch on Dec 27”.
The source said select Reliance Industries group employees in Mumbai have been invited to take 4G SIMs, up to four per employee, “so the network is up and running”. The company also is giving those staff a 25 per cent discount on its LYF brand smartphones, which are VoLTE and voice-over-Wi-Fi enabled.
However, given that only employees in Mumbai have been invited to test the network, the event on the 27th could well be an announcement offering 4G SIMs and handset discounts to employees in more locations, thus its webcast to all Jio centres.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a client note this week that it expects an extension of services for employees and partners next week, with a nationwide commercial launch likely delayed until Q2, the Times reported.
Jio will release four LYF models later this month in the ‘Earth’, ‘Water’, ‘Wind’ and ‘Fire’ series. The premium Earth model will retail for an estimated INR23,000 ($344), with employees able to purchase it for INR17,000.
After a planned June rollout, the new-entrant announced that month it would commercially launch 4G services in December, following an “extensive beta launch”. But it said in a stock exchange filing early last month that the “financial year 2016-17 is projected to be the first year of commercial operations for RJIL”, raising speculation that the launch would be pushed back again.
Jio, which now has 25,000 employees, is the first operator to obtain a pan-India unified licence, holding 751.1MHz across the 800MHz, 1.8GHz and 2.3GHz bands, and has invested a reported $15 billion in the rollout.
But while it has delayed, market leader Bharti Airtel has aggressively pushed 4G across the country and said back in June it plans to expand its 4G service, available in 45 cities and towns, to 296 urban areas.
Vodafone India, the country’s second largest operator, rolled out its first 4G service in Kochi, Kerela state, with plans to soon launch in Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Kolkata. And number three Idea Cellular plans to roll out 4G service by early next year in 10 regions.