India’s largest telecoms firms have pledged to invest a combined total of more than USD65 billion on infrastructure and IT programmes as part of the Digital India Week, which seeks to drum up support for the government’s Digital India initiative. The Digital India project aims to develop the nation’s digital economy by increasing connectivity, improving IT literacy and delivering more services – including government services – electronically. Amongst the businesses promising new investment as part of the programme were: Reliance Industries (RIL), which is set to launch 4G services via its subsidiary Reliance Jio Infocomom (RJIL) in December this year; Bharti Airtel; Reliance Group, which owns Reliance Communications (RCOM); and Aditya Birla Group, the parent company of Idea Cellular.
RIL’s owner and managing director Mukesh Ambani said that the RIL will invest INR2.5 trillion (USD39.33 billion) in the coming years on a range of projects, including the deployment of a national high-speed all-IP based network a training programme and the establishment of the Jio Digital India Start Up Fund to support entrepreneurs looking to set up new businesses based on the Digital India initiative. RIL will also look to support the ‘Make in India’ programme, which aims to encourage the domestic manufacturing industry, by working with global vendors to produce phones and tablets in India. Bharti Airtel, meanwhile, has said it will spend USD16 billion to build deeper IT infrastructure to offer telecom services to Indian citizens in rural and urban areas. ‘We will also ensure the provision of services such as e-health and e-education to Indian citizens,’ Airtel chairman Sunil Mittal added. Elsewhere, Aditya Birla group has sait that it will invest USD7 billion over the next five years to roll out broadband and Wi-Fi networks, whilst a further USD2 billion will be funnelled into other Digital India initiatives, such as electronics manufacturing, smart cities and energy. The group is also planning to launch a mobile banking service to link up its telecoms, financial and retail divisions. For its part, RCOM is ploughing INR100 billion into network, cloud and digital projects.