Reliance Jio to offer free calls in India for life

India's newest telecoms operator announces a target of attracting 100 million subscribers "in the shortest possible time".

Reliance Industries’s Jio mobile phone service will offer free voice calling to customers in India, where several missed deadlines for the service’s introduction had given rivals time to lure users.

Market leader Bharti Airtel and third-ranked Idea Cellular plunged on Thursday after Reliance chairman Mukesh Ambani told shareholders Jio, which begins commercial operations on Monday, will not charge for calls or roaming in India, and would offer the lowest data fees in the world. The company will allow users to try the service for free until December 2016, after which it will offer 10 tariff plans starting 149 rupees a month, he said.

“The era of paying for voice calls is ending,” said Mr Ambani. The service will be offered on Jio for life, he said.

Operators including Airtel have cut tariffs for data plans by as much as 67 per cent and added fourth generation, or 4G, services in an effort to prevent customers from defecting to Jio.

Billionaire Ambani’s mobile service, part of Reliance’s plan to diversify from the oil and petrochemicals that comprised 95 per cent of profit last year, has been undergoing testing for at least nine months with a limited number of users and was initially scheduled to start in December 2015.

Data services have emerged as key to the Indian market, where almost 90 per cent of 151.09 million broadband subscribers access the internet via mobile devices, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

Mr Ambani on Thursday announced a target to draw 100 million customers to Jio “in the shortest possible time”. He said he expects data usage to reach 2.5 billion gigabytes a month on the network.

Jio will offer only fourth-generation services in India, the world’s second-largest smartphone market. Mr Ambani has said he plans to provide improved mobile phone services and help transform India’s digital ecosystem.

Airtel’s shares fell as much as 9.1 per cent, while Idea fell 9 per cent in Mumbai.

Published: September 1, 2016 04:00 AM


Most Read