India’s newest cellco, Reliance Industries-backed startup Reliance Jio Infocomm (Jio), has unveiled a new promotion that it hopes will allow it to retain most of its 100 million customers when it begins charging them for voice/data usage on 1 April. The Economic Times writes that from 1 March to 31 March this year, Jio’s customers will be able to sign up to its new ‘Jio Prime’ service which will cost INR99 up front, plus INR303 over the subsequent year, and will allow the user to continue receiving unlimited voice and data services until 31 March 2018. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, Jio launched in early September 2016 and offered customers unlimited free services until 31 December, before extending the promotion until 31 March 2017. The offers saw the operator sign up users at a record pace, but it widely believed that Jio’s user base would shrink once it began charging for services. The newest promotion effectively extends the free offering for a full year, postponing any subscriber decline until that date and ensuring that the current price war will continue. Indeed, Jio’s decision to continue offering services below-cost was likely aided by the regulator’s paralysis on the matter: the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has so far found no fault with Jio’s promotions, which its rivals have described as ‘predatory’. Alongside its Jio Prime offer, the cellco has said that it will also match the cheapest available data plans from its competitors and will provide 20% more data on those tariffs.
Jio has also revealed plans to upgrade its network infrastructure, with chairman Mukesh Ambani saying: ‘We will more than double our data capacity, which means better service experience for our customers … we are making the network faster and stronger.’ The cellco plans to cover 99% of the population by the end of the year and to that end, Jio has initiated talks with several vendors, including Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei and Samsung. The expansion is also expected to include a technological upgrade, with the cellco having reportedly started testing carrier aggregation (CA) and LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) evolutions.