21 July, Mumbai
Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), on Friday announced the launch of ‘intelligent smartphone’ which will be available for beta testing from August 15.
“The JioPhone will be available to all Indians for an effective price of Rs zero,” Ambani told the company’s 40th Annual General Meeting here. The phone will be available from Jio Infocomm, a fully-owned subsidiary of RIL.
“I had challenged our young engineers at Jio to find a disruptive Indian solution to this problem. What they came up with, stunned me. And it will stun you. Today, Jio is going to reinvent the conventional feature phone. With a revolutionary device, an unmatched Indian innovation, Made in India, by young Indians and for all Indians. Let me introduce India ka Intelligent SmartPhone — Presenting Jio Phone,” he added.
The much-awaited phone was launched by Ambani’s son and daughter Akash and Isha Ambani. The phone will support 22 Indian languages. To protect against misuse, customers have to pay a fully refundable Rs 1,500 security deposit while taking a JioPhone. The deposit would be given back to a user after three years when the phone is returned.
The pre-booking for the phone will start from August 24 and it will be given away on a first-come-first-served basis. It will be available for all from September.
JioPhone, which is targetted at the 50 crore feature-phone users in the country, will offer free voice calls and SMS to customers. For 4G data, customers need to pay Rs 153 per month.
Ambani said that in order to fit every pocket, the company would also introduced two sachets — a weekly plan for Rs 54 and a two-day plan for Rs 24 — that would provide similar value.
Industry stakeholders and analysts appreciated the launch, adding that it will disrupt the market and put pressure on existing operators on data prices.
“The new offerings will help significantly in overcoming the existing challenges of driving data usage beyond the urban, high usage customers. We believe that the feature phone will be a compelling attraction for those customers for whom device prices were a hurdle for shifting from a 2G to a 4G service,” said Rajan S Mathews, Director General, Cellular Operators’ Association of India.
“At Rs 153 with unlimited data, the offer is attractive and it will surely put pressure on the existing operators. At the same time, this will put pressure on the handset and the cable industry too, which will be compelled to match this price point,” he added.
“We do not see Jio being able to penetrate the mass market with the announced offer, as we see the monthly price of Rs 153 and Rs 1,500 initial deposit as still being steep for the low income consumers,” said Bank of America Merrill Lynch in its report on Friday.
“Further, in our view maintaining of the Rs 153 per month ARPU (average revenue per unit) will be positive for incumbents (same effective monthly price to currently active plan of Rs 309 for two months). However, we see the low priced sachet plans of Rs 24/54 increasing the affordability of phone services, and could prove to be disruptive, leading to other telco operators being forced to float similar plans,” the report said.
Ambani said JioPhone can be connected to any TV to watch videos.
“Our young Jio engineers have created an innovation to help them — a special and affordable ‘JioPhone TV cable’ that connects JioPhone with any TV, not just a smart TV, so that all JioPhone users can enjoy viewing on the big screen of their existing television sets. Along with this accessory, users can opt for the existing Jio Dhan Dhana Dhan Rs 309 pack that would allow users to watch almost three-four hours of videos daily, of their choice, on a large screen.”
The phone is pre-loaded with applications like Jio Cinema, Jio Music and others.
Talking about Jio services, Ambani said: “Jio, in next 12 months, will cover 99 per cent of our country’s population.”
He said the telecom sector in India took 25 years to build 2G network for customers but “Jio will do 4G in three years”.
He said the physical distribution network across India was being expanded to support the enhanced coverage. “We will soon have over 10,000 Jio offices, across every city and tehsil town of India. These offices will service our sales channel partners and over 10 lakh physical retail outlets that sell Jio services. In addition, we will integrate with all major e-commerce platforms,” he added.
Jio has 125 million customers across the country. Since its launch 10 months back Jio has added seven customers per second on an average.
“This was the fastest adoption of any technology service, anywhere in the world. Faster than even Facebook, WhatsApp and Skype,” Ambani added.
He said India had overtaken the US and China in mobile data usage.
“Before Jio’s launch, India was 155th in the world in mobile broadband penetration. Now India is number 1 in mobile data consumption and well on its way to becoming number 1 in mobile broadband penetration, in the coming months.”
Ambani said the company has converted majority of its free customers to paid customers. “Today, Jio has more than 100 million paying Jio Prime customers. Most of them have recharged on Jio’s Rs 309 or higher plans,” he added.