Reliance to spend $25bn to unveil 5G services in India

Service will be offered in four big cities, with plans to cover every town in the country by 2023

Reliance chief Mukesh Ambani addresses shareholders during a virtual annual general meeting in Mumbai on Monday. Bloomberg
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Reliance Industries will invest 2 trillion rupees ($25 billion) to unveil its 5G services in India's four largest cities in October, as the conglomerate controlled by billionaire Mukesh Ambani continues to diversify its business.

Reliance Jio Infocomm, the telecoms arm of Reliance Industries, will offer 5G services in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata within the next two months, Mr Ambani said during the company’s annual general meeting on Monday. The meeting was held online due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The company aims to deliver the 5G technology to every town in the country by December 2023.

“With Jio 5G, we can connect everyone, every place and everything with the highest quality and most affordable services,” Mr Ambani said.

“We are committed to making India the world’s largest data power economy in the world, even ahead of China and the United States.”

5G offers up to 20 times faster internet speed compared with 4G. It can also be used in new-age technology such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and blockchain, which in turn can boost productivity in industries.

The global 5G technology market was valued at $5.13bn in 2020 and is expected to hit about $798bn by 2030, growing at a compound annual rate of 65.8 per cent from 2021 to 2030, Allied Market Research said.

A construction worker walks past a gate of Reliance's Jio World Plaza in Mumbai. Reuters

China — the world's second-largest economy and most populous country — had the highest 5G penetration globally at 84 per cent in January.

This came amid a push by local telecoms operators and the readiness of original equipment manufacturers to market competitively priced 5G smartphones to consumers, a Counterpoint Research study showed in March.

“Jio will deploy the latest version of 5G called stand-alone 5G, which has absolutely zero dependency on our 4G network,” Mr Ambani said.

“With standalone 5G, Jio can deliver new and powerful services like low latency, massive machine-to-machine communication, 5G voice … and metaverse.”

Jio Infocomm is part of Jio Platforms, which also houses other digital businesses, including movie streaming and music apps.

Earlier this month, Reliance Jio Infocomm bought airwaves worth more than $11bn at a local spectrum auction as it sought to cement its edge over smaller rivals in setting up faster 5G networks in Asia’s third-largest economy.

“We can provide lakhs of medium businesses with the same capability that was historically available to only larger companies,” Mr Ambani said.

“We can accelerate the digital transformation of tens of thousands of our largest enterprises and make them globally competitive.”

The company is collaborating with Meta, the parent company of Facebook, as well as Google, Microsoft, Intel and Qualcomm, to develop 5G solutions for India, he said.

Facebook, Microsoft, Intel as well as US-based chip maker Qualcomm has already invested in Jio platforms.

Facebook invested $5.7bn in the company in 2020 for a 10 per cent stake, making it the biggest minority shareholder in the company. Google said it would invest $4.5bn for a 7.7 per cent stake, while Qualcomm acquired a 0.15 per cent share in the company with a total investment of 7.3 billion rupees.

Other companies including Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Mubadala Investment Company and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund have also bought stakes in Jio platforms.

The PIF invested about $1.5bn in Jio for a 2.32 per cent stake. Adia invested $753.4 million for a 1.16 per cent stake, and Mubadala invested $1.2bn for a 1.85 per cent stake.

Reliance appointed Akash Ambani as chairman of its telecoms unit in June after the resignation of his father as director of the company.

Reliance Jio reported a 24.1 per cent year-on-year increase in first-quarter net profit to 43.35bn rupees, as it added 9.7 million subscribers and reached a total customer base of 419.9 million as of June 30, Reliance said last month.

Updated: August 30, 2022, 5:44 AM