Data prices in India are about to crash, going by trickling information about tariff plans of upcoming operator Reliance Jio.
The Reliance Industries company, which will launch it 4G services on Dec 28, will be pricing its 10 GB pack at around Rs 600 per month, according to a retailer.
UPDATE: Jio may be launching this Sunday, March 27. See the updated story.
In comparison, Bharti Airtel charges Rs 1,350 for 10 GB of 4G data and Vodafone charges Rs 1,500.
UPDATE: Commercial launch of the service is expected by March 1, and the company is reported to offer a MiFi device plus 10 GB of data for Rs 700.
UPDATE 2: The company is reported to be going for a limited launch in early February.
What’s more, Reliance Jio will be using nearly twice the amount of spectrum compared to the other two in many of the key circles, which should ensure strong data speeds. The company is expected to launch its 4G service on Dec 28.
Out of the 21 telecom circles in the country, Reliance Jio has 4G spectrum in three bands (total 40 MHz) in 5 circles – Mumbai, Madhya Pradesh, North East, Assam and Orissa. (It could raise this to 7 circles by topping up its partial spectrum in Haryana and UP East.)
In three circles — UP West, Punjab and Rajasthan — the operator has spectrum only in one band (20 MHz).
In all other circles, Jio has spectrum in two bands (30 MHz). In comparison, Idea Cellular has spectrum (10 Mhz) in one band in 12 circles, and no 4G spectrum in the other circles.
The closest competitor to the Mukesh Ambani firm is Bharti Airtel.
However, unlike Jio which has 5 circles with 4G spectrum in three bands, Airtel has no such circle.
When it comes to spectrum in at least two bands, Airtel is at 7 compared to RJio’s 19 circles. Finally, when it comes to having 4G spectrum in at least one band, Airtel is at 16 vs RJio’s 22.
The 6 circles where Bharti doesn’t have any 4G airwaves are Bihar, Assam, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, UP East and UP West.
In key revenue generating circles of Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata, RJio has at least 40 MHz of spectrum in Mumbai and at least 30 MHz in the other two. Airtel has 30 MHz in all three.
States where both Jio and Bharti are evenly matched are Delhi, Kolkata, Kerala and Karnataka.
The only state in which Airtel has a clear spectrum advantage is Punjab, where it has 30 MHz compared to RJio’s 20 MHz.
Out of the top five, Vodafone is the weakest player in India as far as 4G is concerned.
It has 4G-suitable airwaves only in five circles — Delhi, Mumbai, Karnataka, Kerala and Kolkata. However, it can launch such services in two more — Gujarat and Tamil Nadu — by buying another 0.6-1.0 MHz from third parties or in the upcoming auction scheduled for February.
However, the British company can easily launch pan-India 4G if it buys spectrum in 2100 MHz or 700 MHz bands in the upcoming auction.
Idea Cellular, meanwhile, has started testing its new LTE network in 180 cities and is even offering 1 GB of free data for those who pre-register for the service in these locations.
The key impediment to the success of non-Jio players will be their fixation of keeping their prices high.
The cheapest price offered for 4G data is Vodafone’s 20 GB pack, which is priced at Rs 2,500 implying a tariff of Rs 125 per GB. In comparison, Jio is likely to offer 25 GB for about Rs 1,000 — a rate of Rs 40 per GB.
The big three operators have, once before, come up against such disruptive pricing by Mukesh Ambani when he launched Reliance India Mobile, which offered call rates of 40 paise per minute against the prevailing tariff of around Rs 2.50 per minute.
However, RIM met with limited success due to the fact that handsets compatible with its network cost about Rs 6,000-10,000 at the time and consumers had practically no CDMA devices before the network was launched.
That is unlikely to prove a big impediment in a data play as dongle prices are much much lower. Bharti Airtel, for example, is selling its MiFi device (with a rechargeable battery and WiFi) at price of Rs 1,500 and giving 10 GB of 4G data free with it. For a heavy user, therefore, the device comes at an effective price of Rs 150.
The Mukesh Ambani company can also be expected to price its data devices in the same range.