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Reliance Jio Inches Closer To 4G Launch

The company faces the challenge of making its network interoperable with 2G, 3G and fixed line networks of other telcos

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Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio Infocomm is moving closer to the launch of its much-awaited 4G services later this month. If the market buzz is to be believed the company is planning to launch services in more than 100 cities in 10 circles by the end of this month. The launch circles are likely to include the three metros and category 'A' circles. This launch will be extended to national level by mid-2016.

The company has a tradition of launching new initiatives on December 28, birthday of Dhirubhai Ambani, founder of Reliance Industries.

However, this launch is not in keeping with the market and industry expectation of a pan-India launch. The company procured pan-India 2300Mhz spectrum way back in 2010 and has spent the last five years in setting up exhaustive network across the country. Reliance Jio already has a fiber outlay of 250,000 kms and has set up a tower network of around 75,000 towers. Besides the company has been carrying out extensive trials and beta testing for quite some time now. So, in keeping with the preparations, it is expected that RJio is going to launch at national level.

This delay in the launch will help the incumbents, because they would get critical time to expand their 4G services to put up a strong fight against the greenfield operator. Bharti Airtel has already launched 4G in nearly 300 towns and cities and recently announced investment of Rs 60,000 crore to modernize its networks. Vodafone India and Idea Cellular are also gearing up to face the challenge from Reliance Jio.

RJio is likely to launch 4G services bundled along with Voice Over LTE (VoLTE) devices. The company has already launched these devices under the brand name of Lyf. Devices are being launched in keeping with different elements of life like water, earth, fire and air. The success of these devices is essential to the success of RJio. However, the company believes a VoLTE is its differentiating factor since it is believed to offer enhanced quality of services and voice experience. Since most of the device manufacturers are focusing on 4G, it is critical that RJio VoLTE makes devices available at reasonable price points.

The company has also started testing its 4G network by issuing connections to its employees and their families.

"Firstly, VoLTE works - with perfect interconnection with other operator networks and no difference in experience on VoLTE 3G/2G/fixed line versus a fully CS call. This is important since lack of good voice product is still perceived to be one of the weakest links in RJio's by the bulls on telcos," says the recent Credit Suisse report.

However, the report does point out that though the network coverage is on par with the incumbents, "handset availability is limited in the beta phase with only 20 models recommended for full VoLTE functionality (starting $130). We suspect the list will expand soon."

The company had initially procured pan-India 2300 Mhz spectrum in 2010 but later acquired additional spectrum in 1800 Mhz and 800 Mhz frequency band. However, new technology is turning out to be bane for the company, which is leading to a delay in the launch of services. The device ecosystem is still far from developed. The company also faces the challenge of making their network interoperable with 2G, 3G and fixed line networks of other telcos. It might also face issues of integrating its network with that of Reliance Communications, since the company already has infrastructure sharing agreement with them.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Gagandeep Kaur

An India-based business journalist, Gagandeep writes for several international and national publications. With work experience spanning more than 15 years, she specialises in writing on telecommunications and Information Technology industry

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