UPDATED 21-11: Reliance Jio Infocomm’s ambitious pan-India 4G plans, which have been in the works since acquiring spectrum in 2010, appear to have been pushed back to its FY2016-17, which starts 1 April.
The new-entrant announced in June it would commercially launch 4G services in December, following an “extensive beta launch”, but it said in a stock exchange filing that the “financial year 2016-17 is projected to be the first year of commercial operations for RJIL”. The company went on to say that it expects to ramp up its beta programme over the next few weeks to further optimise the network, prior to commercial launch of operations.
Jio 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.
Its long-anticipated 4G service launch has been pushed back a number of times. In April it said it would launch in five cities in June, and faced penalties if it missed that deadline – five years after obtaining the 2.3GHz spectrum.
But the company is now likely to lose any first-mover advantage as rivals accelerate their 4G plans.
Market leader Bharti Airtel has aggressively pushed 4G across the country and said 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, said in August it would launch 4G services in five cities, including Mumbai and Delhi, by the end of the year. And number three Idea Cellular plans to roll out 4G service by early next year in 10 regions.
Airtel, Vodafone and Idea control 59 per cent of the country’s 941 million mobile connections, according to GSMA Intelligence.
Jio’s parent company, Reliance Industries, reported in its financial results for its first half ending 30 September that Jio has “substantially completed network rollout across the country, which is currently being tested and optimised. It expects to ramp up its beta programme over the next few weeks”.
The H1 report also said that Reliance Retail will launch its own brand of 4G smartphones under the brand ‘LYF’ with features like voice-over-LTE, voice-over-Wi-Fi, HD voice and HD quality video calling.