RJIL gives incumbents breathing room with further delays

17 Nov 2015

Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJIL) has postponed its planned 4G launch again, pushing back the activation of its LTE network from December 2015 to its fiscal 2016/17, starting 1 April 2016, Mobile World Live writes, citing a stock exchange filing. RJIL has delayed its network launch numerous times, announcing in June 2015 that the switch-on would take place in December that year, the cellco having missed its target of launching in April-June 2015. In its most recent announcement, the operator said that the ‘financial year 2016/17 is projected to be the first year of commercial operations for RJIL,’ adding that it would spend the extra time testing and optimising its network in preparation for the full commercial launch.

The newcomer is expected to be a disruptive force in India’s crowded wireless market, with a pan-India 4G network currently being rolled out alongside plans to lower the cost of entry with a range of sub-INR4,000 (USD60.7) LTE-compatible devices. RJIL aims to sign up 100 million subscribers within its first year of operations (equivalent to roughly 10% of the country’s current mobile subscriber base), with low-cost data plans – reportedly targeting prices of around a third of their current level – and its extensive distribution network.

The prolonged delays have given the cellco’s incumbent rivals time to prepare for its arrival, however. Bharti Airtel, the nation’s largest cellco by subscribers, announced yesterday that it is planning to spend an additional USD750 million in its current fiscal year to accelerate its 4G rollout programme, the International Business Times reports. Similarly, Vodafone announced last week that it would spend INR80 billion to expand and upgrade its network (although no timeframe was given for this investment).