Jio Launch Af­ter RCom Spec­trum In­te­gra­tion: RIL

Co test­ing Jio on half a mil­lion users, wants to scale it up for more users be­fore com­mer­cial launch

The Economic Times - - Companies: Pursuit Of Profit - Our Bureau

New Delhi: Re­liance In­dus­tries is await­ing the in­te­gra­tion of spec­trum that it ex­pects to get from a shar­ing-and-trad­ing pact with Re­liance Com­mu­ni­ca­tions ( RCom), be­sides scal­ing up its user base to a few mil­lion be­fore launch­ing its much-awaited but de­layed 4G tele­com ser­vice.

An­nounc­ing its fourth-quar­ter earn­ings for 2015-16, the Mukesh Am­ban­i­con­trolled com­pany said its tele­com unit, Re­liance Jio In­fo­comm, aims to achieve 90% pop­u­la­tion cov­er­age be­fore start­ing com­mer­cial oper­a­tions and added that it’s al­ready around the 70% mark.

“We are test­ing Re­liance Jio on half a mil­lion users and want to scale it up for a few mil­lion users be­fore we launch the ser­vice com­mer­cially,” Anshuman Thakur, head of strat­egy and plan­ning at Re­liance Jio, told re­porters on Fri­day.

Jio’s av­er­age data con­sump­tion per user ex­ceeded 18 GB within the first month of ser­vice and is in­creas­ing. Av­er­age voice us­age was over 250 min­utes in the pe­riod. The com­pany is widely ex-

up­grade its roughly 5 mil­lion CDMA cus­tomers to 4G net­work in phases from May 4 and lever­age Jio’s in­fras­truc­ture pected to launch com­mer­cial ser­vices by De­cem­ber, af­ter hav­ing started tri­als with its staff and part­ners on De­cem­ber 28, 2015. “The beta tri­als will be tran­si­tioned to a com­mer­cial roll­out at a later date,” Thakur said, adding that a com­mer­cial launch date hasn’t been de­cided.

Thakur said spec­trum in­te­gra­tion was a fac­tor be­ing con­sid­ered for the com­mer­cial roll­out. Jio signed a pact with RCom, owned by Mukesh’s younger brother Anil, to share 800 MHz air­waves in 17 cir­cles. Ap­provals for nine — Mum­bai, UP-East, Mad­hya Pradesh, Bi­har, Odisha, Haryana, Hi­machal Pradesh, As­sam and the North­east — came in from the tele­com de­part­ment on Fri­day. RCom has also agreed to sell 800 MHz spec­trum — con­sid­ered very ef­fi­cient for 4G ser­vices — to Jio in nine ar­eas. The agree­ments are an ef­fort to lever­age each other’s spec­trum hold­ings to launch high-speed mo­bile broad­band ser­vices, or 4G, across In­dia and take on top in­cum­bents Bharti Air­tel, Voda­fone In­dia and Idea Cel­lu­lar.

“In the nine mar­kets where DoT al­lowed RCom and Jio to share 4G air­waves in the 800 MHz band on Fri­day, the spec­trum in­te­gra­tion can tech­ni­cally hap­pen in un­der a fort­night,” an an­a­lyst at a for­eign bro­ker­age said.

How­ever, Jio and RCom are likely to wait for DoT ap­proval to ac­ti­vate their nine-cir­cle spec­trum trad­ing deal, which is “ex­pected very shortly”, to ring in 4G ser­vices in key mar­kets such as Delhi, Kolkata, Gu­jarat, Andhra Pra- desh, Ma­ha­rash­tra, Pun­jab, UP-East, UP-West and West Ben­gal. Af­ter the ap­proval, RCom can trans­fer the right to use its 4G spec­trum to Jio in th­ese re­gions. Jio and RCom may also seek early ap­proval to share 800 MHz air­waves in eight re­main­ing cir­cles.

RCom’s stock gained 5.5% to .₹ 56.95 at the close on BSE. The 30-share Sen­sex fell 0.16%. Re­liance said it will spend an ad­di­tional $4.5 bil­lion (.`30,000 crore) in capex in the cur­rent fi­nan­cial year, while its debt would stand at .₹ 33,000 crore. RIL chair­man Am­bani has pre­vi­ously said Jio In­fo­comm is the world’s big­gest startup, with an in­vest­ment of over .₹ 150,000 crore, which would of­fer broad­band speeds that are up to 80 times faster than cur­rent of­fer­ings at af­ford­able rates. On Fri­day, RIL said Jio’s cus­tomer of­fer­ing is built on four key strate­gic di­men­sions — “widest cov­er­age of LTE ser­vices, sub­stan­tially su­pe­rior net­work qual­ity, trans­for­ma­tional data ca­pac­ity and af­ford­able ser­vices.”

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