Reliance Jio to launch 4G service in various circles in 10-15 days

jp-tweet-reliance-jio-launchA twitter user by the name of JP Singh has created a small flutter by claiming that Reliance Jio Infocomm will launch its 4G services this Sunday.

UPDATE: We have confirmed from mid-level Jio employees that the company is indeed working towards a launch in various states over the next 10-15 days. The target for Kerala launch, for example, is April 3.

There is a chance that VoLTE may be turned off at the time of launch in some states and the company could rely on partners like Reliance Communications and BSNL for its voice service, according to these employees. Reliance Communications is also expanding its 3G network very fast to provide a viable fallback option for Jio’s 4G network.

Since this story was published, more social media users have shared details of the launch in their areas. You can see them here.

Though just about anyone can make such claims on Twitter, there seems to be some reason to suspect that JP Singh may know what he’s talking about.

First is that a Google search on his name throws up a link to a LinkedIn profile of someone by the same name, which is also not surprising given that there are more than one JP Singh in this world, and on LinkedIn.

However, what is interesting is that Google’s excerpt of this LinkedIn profile includes the words “Head Supply Chain Jio Business at Reliance Jio” (see picture on the left). That said, he’s not the head of supply chain at the company.

googleWhen you visit the profile, nothing except his location and employer name — an internet service provider — and industry (telecom) is visible due to strict privacy settings.

The JP Singh profile on Twitter, which has close to a thousand followers including verified accounts of Vodafone India, Snapdeal and Bharti Airtel, was immediately flooded with queries seeking more information on the so-called launch of Reliance Jio 4G services on March 27. However, he has offered no more details.lyf

The twitter user has, in the past, posted photographs of LYF handsets, seemingly from the supply chain.

The context for today’s tweet seems to be reports in the Economic Times that Reliance Jio’s launch may have been postponed to December of this year.

Hours before making the ‘announcement’, Singh had tagged three handles used by Economic Times’ team and said: “Reliance Jio Commercial Launch on its way. I will announce the official launch day Today 4PM Right Here.”

This was followed by his tweet that at 4 PM that Jio will indeed be starting its services on Mar 27 (picture on top).

UPDATE: Singh has today tweeted that Customer Acquisition Forms and Prepaid SIMs are on the way to Reliance Retail Stores right now.

NOT A LONE VOICE

The reason why Singh’s tweet has created a bit of flutter is because it’s not the only indication that recent media and analyst reports about yet another delay in Jio’s launch are misplaced.

According to our own on-the-ground checks, Jio is very close to launch — and commercial services are almost certain to start sometime in April.

The company has unblocked several of its websites,  and enabled many features on its account management application on Android over the past seven days.

In addition, more than one distributor has confirmed to us that the operator has indicated to them that services will start in April.

Over the last two weeks, the company has also pushed its LYF branded handsets lakhs of retail stores, including very small ones. At the same time,  there has been practically no attempt to sell these phones via high-pitched advertising campaigns, indicating that it may be waiting for the service launch before kicking off the promotions.

The phones are also priced at such a level that they do not appear value for money — as Jio offerings are expected to be — without any bundled data and voice offers from the operator to go along with the handsets.

LIMITED LAUNCH?

Given the challenges of starting and scaling up a nation-wide next-generation wireless network, the company is widely expected to do a gradual ramp starting next month.

Besides the big metros like Mumbai and Delhi, states like Kerala are also seen among the first places to see its 4G services kick off.

The company, a unit of Reliance Industries Ltd, is estimated to have spent close to 1.1 lakh cr over the last five years getting its telecom venture in shape.

At 1.2 lakh 4G cell sites, Jio already has more LTE base stations in India than all other operators put together.

Jio has already taken its 4G signal to over 1 lakh villages and 18,000 towns and cities. In comparison, India’s biggest telecom company Bharti Airtel is present in less than 1,000 cities and Idea Cellular in around 400 towns and cities.

RIL Chairman Mukesh Ambani has told his shareholders that the year starting April 2016 will be the first ‘full year of commercial operations’ for the company, meaning that it has to start commercial operations at least by Apr 1.

In a recent interview with CNN, when asked about the telecom venture, Ambani had said that his company was “ready to launch”.

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