After the unleashing of the Reliance monsoon hungama in 2003, which offers wireless connectivity for an unheard price of Rs 501, here comes the biggest announcement from Reliance Industries in its much-awaited Jio launch: free mobile calls and roaming charges for anyone opting for Reliance Jio services. This was greeted with uproars of approval and thunderous claps by the shareholders at the company's 42nd Annual General meeting on Thursday in Mumbai.
Chairman of Reliance Industries Mukesh Ambani's speech had the right mix of offers to make Jio an irresistible offer and the company's plans to offer it free for all for a 3-month period was the highlight of the offer. This offer begins from 5 September till 31 December.
Ambani's speech was peppered with adjectives like 'free', 'largest' and 'biggest', to outline the company's plans and offers for Jio and its long-term plans for its other businesses — retail, petrochemical, media, entertainment and others.
He also mentioned his children, Isha and Akash, who are both the directors at RIL and also his wife, Nita in his speech that lasted for an hour and a half.
The speech began in a filled-to-capacity auditorium with Ambani stating the importance of the digital era. "If you are not digital in this era, you will not survive, you will become irrelevant, remain left behind. India cannot remain left behind. Jio is conceived to change this. With the launch of Jio, India’s rank among cellular country users will shoot up to the top 10 list." And that set the tone of the speech which offered a bonanza to Jio users.
Ambani did not forget to make a mention of the government's ambitious programmes Digital India, Make in India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "Jio will fulfill the Digital India dream of Prime Minister Narendra Modi."
The RIL chairman announced a slew of free measures for Jio users that should entice anyone using other telecom networks to join Jio. Sample some of them: Data shortage to data abundance with data usage to be charged at as low as 5 paisa per MB. Jio users will get 25 percent more data and unlimited data at night.
"Customers should pay for only one service, voice or data not both.... Worldwide operators charge only for data, and voice and messages are free... All voice calls for Jio customer will be absolutely free... The era of paying for voice calls is ending. Jio will usher India into the new era."
Ambani said that Jio's base rate will be one-tenth of the prevailing data rates. "In our data plans, the effective rates will be 5p per MB or Rs 50 per GB... The more data you use, the lower will be the rate," he said.
Jio plans will range from Rs 149 per month to Rs 4,999 per month. Ambani said the company will deploy one million Wi-Fi spots across the country by the middle of next year.
New handsets will be provided at affordable rates. Ambani says RIL's LyF handsets will be available at price points statring from Rs 2,999. Devices for 2G/3G customers will be available at Rs 1,999.
Jio's pricing will have only ten plans. Ambani made one announcement that should further trigger heartburn among his competitors. " Today, for all our customers there will be no more blackout dates – such as double charges on Diwali, etc."
Ambani did not forget to mention his competitors after he unveiled his Jio plans. "I’m sure we (along with our competitors) will raise to great heights to serve our customers. The onus is on the incumbent operators not to misuse their powers when it comes to point of interconnect and when it comes to their service and Jio. It will only serve to disrupt the service to customers."
Telecom shares took a beating immediately after this announcement. Bharti Airtel stock went down by 7.76 percent; Idea was down by 8 percent.
(Disclosure: Firstpost is part of Network18 Media & Investment Limited which is owned by Reliance Industries Limited.)