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BW Businessworld

What's Delaying Reliance 4G

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Ever since broadband wireless licences were handed out over two years ago, the industry, the rivals, the analysts and the consumers have all speculated about when Reliance Industries will launch its services.

Reliance chairman Mukesh Ambani has, however, refused to push his team to a deadline despite all the expectations. Reliance has finalised the key vendor and supplier partnerships but not yet announced the names. The Rs 1,200-crore network-sharing and the Rs 12,000-crore tower-sharing deal announced today have now plugged another gap in its strategy. Eariler, Reliance signed a deal with Bharti Airtel  for cable network sharing.

Since Mukesh is going for a big play, he wants his team to be free from compulsions. He told them to take their own time in building the platform for the service. Incidentally, broadband wireless business Reliance Jio will absorb nearly 20-25 per cent of the Rs 1,50,000 crore investment Reliance Chairman Mukesh Ambani announced at the AGM on June 6.

Besides, there's the Hungama scheme in the works. Older shareholders of Reliance Industries still remember the ‘Monsoon Hugama’ of 2003. It was the launch offer of Reliance Infocomm’s cellular service, which was also spearheaded by Mukesh Ambani. The company gave mobile handsets for Rs 500 along with the CDMA connection. The customer base swelled week-by-week with the people from bottom-of-the-pyramid. Though CDMA technology failed to catch up with GSM, Monsoon Hungama went well with carpenters, rikshawallahs and so on. Reliance Infocomm, however, was apportioned to Anil Ambani when the family split in 2005.

When Mukesh Ambani plans launching the his 4G service around monsoon 2014 is the big question. Since he has spent Rs 18,000 crore in buying spectrum and preparing the ground, a Hungama is necessary for Reliance Jio launch.