Reliance Jio officially launched its commercial operations on this day one year ago, and it has drastically changed the telecom sector with its free voice calls and cheap 4G services that changed the way Indian users consumed data. Free for the first six months after launch, the company’s 4G data services provided consumers the option to watch more online videos and other content than ever before, something that became apparent when India jumped ahead of the US and China to take the position of world’s biggest consumer of mobile data. Eventually the company’s services did become paid, but that did not stop the Jio juggernaut – primarily because of the ultra-low tariff the company levied for its data – as consumers switched to its Jio Prime subscription service en masse. Of course, the competition matched Jio’s offers too, bringing in cheaper plans that provided bundled calls and much more data than they were providing before.
Here’s a look at 10 ways the telecom industry changed after Jio’s entry.
- Ultra-cheap data: Before the entry of Reliance Jio, data was rather expensive and consumers had to shell out up to Rs. 450 (on some networks) for 1GB of data. The highlight of Jio’s launch offer was the free data it was offering to consumers, with 4GB of high-speed of 4G data per day, followed by continued data at 128kbps speed. Eventually the company had to launch chargeable plans after incumbent operators protested, but even then the tariff was so low that consumers paid roughly Rs. 10 per GB of 4G data - something other operators also started to offer in response.
- Increased consumption of online content: India saw an exponential rise in the consumption of online content with the availability of free data. Jio claims India’s data consumption went from 20 crore GB to 120 crore GB in six months, adding that the average consumer nowadays uses 10GB data per month.
- Free voice calls: Voice calls became free for all consumers across networks when Jio launched operations. The company has said both local and STD calls will always be free on its network, to all networks. Rivals eventually followed suit, offering prepaid and postpaid packs with bundled free minutes for STD and local voice calls to all networks. Jio claims its network presently carries 250 crore minutes a day of calls.
- Proliferation of 4G smartphones: The market for 4G smartphones exploded after Jio services were launched as everyone had access to the company’s 4G network for free. While 4G handsets were seeing some traction in the affordable segment since late 2015, post-Jio, 4G VoLTE-capable smartphones started hitting the market for as low as Rs. 2,999. In fact, 95 percent of the smartphones sold in the country in the first quarter were 4G-capable, according to data by IDC and Morgan Stanley Research.
- Faster mobile data: With 4G becoming the norm in the market, mobile data speeds rose too considering most people were on 3G networks before that. According to the latest data by TRAI’s MySpeed app, Jio offers average download speeds of around 18Mbps, while the incumbents deliver roughly 10Mbps speeds.
- The death of 3G: While 4G was the biggest buzzword in the telecom industry since 2015, most operators still delivered 3G speeds while upgrading to 4G. However, with Jio starting operations, the migration to 4G networks speeded up, and 3G networks are finally being left behind. In fact, almost all smartphones sold today are 4G compatible.
- A record in user acquisition: In February, Jio claimed its telecom network had garnered 100 million users in less than six months of operations. At the time, Chairman Mukesh Ambani had said this growth is faster than even what global giants such as Facebook and WhatsApp recorded. The Jio user base currently stands at 130 million.
- Improved broadband Internet availability: India’s telecom regulator TRAI defines broadband speeds as anything above 512kbps or above. With the free Internet, millions of people got access to high-speed 4G services, and Jio became the country’s biggest provider of broadband Internet – and that’s without the public launch of JioFiber service the company plans to launch soon.
- Vodafone, Idea Cellular merged: Vodafone and Idea Cellular, the second and third-largest operators in the country, announced a merger in March - a move considered by many to be a step to fend off Jio and its aggressive strategies. With the merger, the combined Vodafone-Idea unit would become the largest telecom operator in the country – overtaking market leader Airtel – with nearly 400 million customers, 35 percent user market share, and 41 percent revenue market share.
- Helped ease the way for online streaming services: Jio says it serves 165 crore hours worth of streaming videos on its network each month. The company’s own JioTV app, popular video streaming service YouTube, and subscription-based streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hotstar will likely be reaching new audiences with this, while DittoTV called Jio the ultimate growth hack.
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