2018 has been a huge year for Reliance Jio. From the launch of GigaFiber broadband to crossing 250 million subscribers mark, Jio remains an outlier in the financially stressed telecom sector in India. Even after achieving many firsts and scoring a number of wins, the telco is not slowing down. The company has already planned some big things for the next year, including an expansion of its much-touted fibre service and the launch of GigaTV. In this report, we are taking a look at what we can expect to see from the telecom operator in 2019.
What to expect from Jio next year?
Jio GigaFiber expansion
It has been over five months since Jio officially unveiled its GigaFiber broadband service at the company's annual general meeting (AGM) with much fanfare, but the service is yet to see wider roll-out. The service is still in a soft launch phase with the company gauging user interest based on locations via registrations. Still, the company is quietly expanding the userbase with the new consumers being subscribed to the preview offer in several areas that have existing GigaFiber infrastructure.
It is expected that Jio will finally open the flood gates in March next year with the full launch. The company will reportedly announce the service plans at the same time. To remind you, GigaFiber is the company's broadband service with up to 1Gbps speed and the company aims to connect up to 50 million homes in 1100 cities with GigaFiber over the coming years.
Jio GigaTV roll out
In addition to unveiling the GigaFiber, Jio had showcased the new GigaTV platform at this year's AGM. This platform will use the bandwidth available on the company's growing fibre network to offer TV channels with 4K support, video calling and other services. Unlike the GigaFiber, which is at least available to select number of consumers, GigaTV roll-out is yet to start. The company has not officially announced a launch date, but it is likely that GigaFiber's March expansion will also see the release of GigaTV set-top box and the official roll-out of the service.
The company is hoping to grab a pie of the massive DTH market in the country with GigaTV by offering better services and features. According to the information available so far, the GigaTV set top box will support voice commands in most of the Indian languages as well as offer access to 600 TV channels, 1000s of movies, and millions of songs.
JioPhone 3 launch
After the success of the original Jio Phone and Jio Phone 2, the telecom operator will undoubtedly launch the third-iteration of the phone in 2019. The specifics of the Jio Phone 3 are a mystery right now, but we are likely to see a number of improvements over the existing models. As per an estimate by Credit Suisse, Jio could have sold as many as 40 million original JioPhone units by April 2018. According to Counterpoint's Market Monitor report, Jio accounted for 11 percent of the total worldwide feature phone shipments in the third quarter of this year.
Affordable large-screen smartphones
The mobiles from Reliance Lyf, a subsidiary of Reliance Retail, were among the first budget smartphones that came with complete support for Jio's 4G networks. Now as Lyf has sort of faded in the background with no new launches over the last several quarters, Jio is reportedly planning to work with a new set of partners to launch affordable large-screen smartphone for the mass market consumers. According to a recent report, the company is hoping to convert feature phone users into smartphone users with these budget devices. It is also in talks with US-based contract manufacturer Flex for smartphone production in India. As of right now, Jio only offers two 4G feature phones under its own brand. We are hoping to see these mass market 4G phones hit Jio stores over the next year.
Content tie-ups and acquisitions
2018 was the year of content tie-ups and buyouts for Jio and the same is likely to continue in the next year. The company partnered with the likes of Star India for cricket content, Zee for TV channels, and with AltBalaji and Eros for entertainment content. As the company expands GigaFiber and attempts to move more feature phones users to smartphones, it will try to increase the content offering to entice the consumers. Traditionally, the company has bundled the content for free with Jio connections, but that has started to change with the recent launch of JioSaavn, which is paid even for Jio users after the initial trial period. However, the content freebies won't disappear anytime soon and even if the company moves some to the paid subscription model, it will introduce other free content to keep the consumers happy. Content will continue to be the key driver after tariffs to acquire and retain subscribers.
Even though 5G is still years away from being a widely available service, Reliance Jio is already working to bring the next-generation network to its consumers. According to online reports, the company plans to launch 5G services as soon as six months after spectrum auction, which is likely to happen in mid-2019. An unnamed Jio official claimed that the company already has 5G-ready LTE networks and it is aggressively deploying optical fibre lines to enhance the backbone of this network. While we are unlikely to see an actual 5G launch from Jio in the next year, the company will very possibly start the network trials as soon the spectrum is allocated. The company is already performing localised live 5G trials. The government believes the transition from 4G to 5G will be quicker compared to transition from 3G to 4G.
Jio VoWi-Fi service
The voice over Wi-Fi (VoWi-Fi) is another service that Jio could be officially introduced next year. It has been in trials since July this year and the testing seems to have been recently expanded to multiple states, including Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, and Telangana. VoWi-Fi also known as Wi-Fi calling allows the telecom operators to keep the consumers connected even when the cellular signal is not available. It lets the consumers to continue or start voice calls over Wi-Fi in the absence of mobile network. Many of the existing smartphones already support VoWi-Fi and select others can get the support after a software update. It is unclear whether the service will be chargeable or free for the Jio users.
Jio Smart Home
Reliance Jio's household ambitions aren't limited to just GigaFiber or GigaTV services, the company plans to build a complete connected home platform on the back of its fibre network. This smart home play will include devices like smart speakers, Wi-Fi extenders, smart plugs, door sensors, TV cameras, audio/ video dongles, smart locks, thermostats, and various connected cameras. According to the details shared during the company's AGM, the Jio Smart Home platform will enable the consumers to control nearly every aspect of their home from an application.
The company is expected to start offering smart home solutions soon after the GigaFiber commercial roll-out next year. Jio notes that the consumers won't have to worry about setting up the smart home solution and the company will be responsible for everything. It claims that the while Jio Smart Home package can be installed in less than an hour by the company's engineers.
Jio Enterprise Services
After disrupting the telecom sector in the country, Jio is now aiming to do the same with enterprise service market. The company's enterprise offerings are reportedly already in a soft launch phase with the official launch expected in the next few quarters, making it possible for a 2019 debut. According to online reports, the company is looking to offer unified communications, cloud services, managed video conferencing, and more.
Jio is apparently in talks with Cisco to extend their partnership for the enterprise services. Cisco has been working with Jio since 2012 on several areas, including the deployment of VoLTE services. The company's enterprise prowess will certainly help Jio tap this lucrative market.
Will Jio GigaFiber have the same impact that Jio 4G did? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.