Billionaire businessman Mukesh Ambani on Tuesday said that his telecom unit Jio will begin charging for data services from April but will give steep discounts for a year to over 100 million customers who have come on board within six months of its launch.
While local voice calls, STD and roaming will continue to be free, he promised to match the best offers of rival telecom companies and add 20 per cent more data from April 1.
In a speech broadcast live from the company’s social media accounts, Ambani said that Jio had added 100 million subscribers in 170 days since launch in September last year and the company plans to extend the network to cover 99 per cent of population by this year-end.
Jio, which marked Ambani’s re-entry in telecom space after a decade with free voice calls for life and free data for a promotional period that was extended until 31 March, will offer existing users unlimited services for a year at a monthly charge of Rs 303 and one-time membership fee of Rs 99.
The entry forced incumbents to cut tariff and consider mergers to face competition from Jio. Vodafone and Idea are considering a merger to create a player bigger than the market leader, Bharti Airtel.
The incumbents also challenged Jio’s promotional scheme before telecom regulator Trai, saying free services beyond 90- days were a violation of rules.
While shares of Reliance Industries, the parent firm of Jio, rose 1.36 per cent to close at Rs 1,088.25 on BSE, rival Bharti Airtel tanked 3.9 per cent to close at Rs 362.95. Idea Cellular fell 0.4 per cent to Rs 108.30.
“Jio launched its services on September 5 of last year.
Today, just 170 days later, Jio has crossed the 100 million customer mark on its 4G LTE, all-IP wireless broadband network,” Ambani said.
After end of its Happy New Year Offer, which was kind of an extension of the initial promotional offer of free voice and data to attract customers, Jio will introduce tariff plans from April 1.
Ambani said all domestic calls to any network including STD and roaming will continue to be free.
For data, Jio will not only match the highest selling tariffs of each of the other leading Indian telecom operators but also provide 20 per cent more data in each of these plans, he said.
However, Jio’s connectivity has experienced phenomenal slide with customers complaining of no connection across the country. This has come as a shock to millions of customers who experienced an unprecedented fast connection days after the Jio was launched for public use.
Ambani’s promise aside, his company will really need to significantly improve its connectivity primarily to stay relevant in an already competitive telecom market.
(With PTI inputs)