Taking a dig at India’s older telcos, Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani said while it took the industry 25 years to build a 2G network in the country, it took Reliance Jio just three years to build its 4G network.
Until Jio came, India was stuck in a 2G ecosystem with poor data and connectivity, he added.
“Before Jio, India was stuck with 2G technology… And Jio wanted to end India’s data misery and unleash a digital revolution…While it took 25 years for the Indian telecom industry to build its 2G network, Jio built its 4G network in only three years,” Ambani said on Thursday at a virtual international industry event titled ‘Digital Transformation World Series 2020’.
The RIL chairman said to further extend the global leadership in connectivity, Jio would now roll out a high-speed, low-latency optical fiber network for more than 50 million homes and premises. “Simultaneously, we are preparing for rolling out 5G services across India,” he said.
‘JioPhone a big breakthrough’
Reliance Jio Infocomm launched its 4G-only services in September 2016. Its entry with free voice and dirt-cheap data packs upended the sector and forced incumbents to aggressively expand 4G services as well as reduce tariffs. Airtel and Vodafone Idea — which still trail behind Jio’s 4G coverage — are fast phasing out 3G in a bid to move their subscribers to 4G. But they continue to offer 2G services to large parts of India, where people still use feature phones.
Ambani had earlier asked the government to make the country ‘2G free’ but both Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, backed by the sector regulator, have pushed back saying millions of Indians, especially in the rural areas, still use feature phones and thus, 2G connections.
“Before Jio… over half a billion Indians were left out of the digital movement because they couldn’t afford smartphones and had to make do with 2G feature phones. Our young and talented Jio engineers rose to the challenge of designing the world’s ultra-affordable breakthrough device called the JioPhone,” said Ambani. “That provided a window to the world of limitless possibilities for over 100 million Indians in less than a year.”
Ambani was referring to the 4G feature phone JioPhone which was launched by Reliance in July 2017 with an eye to attract India’s 500 million feature phone users. India still has some 40 million feature phone users currently.
RIL chairman said Jio has pushed the country to the top today from 155th position in data consumption. The country consumes over 6 exabytes of data every month, which is a more than 30 times increase over the pre-Jio launch period.