Ever since Reliance Jio was first announced, it's been getting a lot of attention. The Preview Offer that started in May first allowed Reliance employees, and then users of specific handsets, to try out the Jio network completely free without any limits on usage. For people who were on board in that period, the Reliance Jio connection was fast, reliable, and a real alternative to the very limited broadband connections that we have in India.
With the launch of Reliance Jio, the company also announced its various plans, which were quite appealing. But perhaps best of all, it announced the Jio Welcome program, under which you can use 4GB of 4G data daily on the Reliance Jio network without paying anything until December 31, 2016. That's a lot of value to give away free, so it's no surprise that everyone wants to be on the network now.
Which is why, predictably enough, Reliance Jio SIM cards are impossible to find now as the company is - according to sources - struggling to activate the huge number of SIMs it issued on the very first day of availability. However, that's not the only problem that people are facing.
During the Preview Offer period, when the number of users on the ground was very low, people would excitedly share on social media how fast the connections were. As Gadgets 360 pointed out in every single article we wrote before the official launch, the Preview Offer could not realistically give a picture of what the Reliance Jio network would be like after the launch. One week in, it's completely clear that speeds have plummeted, call drops are routine, and the network disconnects from time to time as it is slammed by huge numbers of users.
Now the latter at least can be blamed on Jio's ongoing tussle with other telcos. Reliance Jio has called for MNP support from other telcos, and said that it will record operator-wise call-drops data. Last week, Trai also met with telcos to discuss interconnect issues. But even leaving aside those concerns, Jio is definitely facing a tough time in terms of delivering its service.
For example, during the Preview Offer period, seeing speeds between 20Mbps and 25Mbps was the norm in South Bengaluru. Now, seeing speeds in excess of 5Mbps is cause for celebration. Over an extended period of usage, typical speeds have stayed under 3.5Mbps.
The problem isn't just limited to our own experience either. Many users who signed up for Reliance Jio during the preview offer are now finding the connection much slower than before.
"I was using it for all my calls earlier, but now the calls drop 25-30 times a day," says Mihir Gupta, a Jio user based in Delhi. "Speeds are also much slower now. It's still better for Internet, but for calling it's become useless."
Another user we spoke to, Shweta Jha who is also based in Delhi, says that the connection now stops working from time to time. "It always used to cut out inside some buildings," says Jha, "but now it's pretty much useless indoors."
"I was regularly getting speeds of over 20Mbps," says Mumbai-based Ankit Pradhan. "Now it's usually under 5Mbps. People had been talking about using Jio as a replacement for wired broadband, and even I was thinking of doing that, but with the speed being so unreliable, I don't think it makes sense at all."
(Also see: How and Where to Get Reliance Jio SIM Card)
Reliance Jio is the only "full-4G" network in India, the company says. It's been built from the ground up for high speed data, apparently. But unless the company can find a way to cope with the huge influx of users that it's facing right now, it's definition of high-speed will be as bogus as the definition of broadband in India.
(Also see: How to Get Started With Reliance's JioFi Hotspot)
Realistically speaking, all the telecom networks in India are delivering abysmal speeds to customers in the name of 4G; given that spectrum is finite and the number of users is huge, that's perhaps not unexpected. People who were expecting the speeds of the Jio Preview Offer even after the commercial rollout were misguided at best, but what we're seeing now is frankly worse than what we expected. In fact, it would be completely unacceptable if it wasn't free for now - but unless Reliance Jio can deliver a better experience for users, it won't be worth porting your number over, as you can expect your carrier to match the rates soon enough.