The voice-dominated domestic telecom space is set to liven up further with corporate giant Reliance Industries, the only national licence holder for 4G spectrum, today saying it will be offering not just high speed data but voice services as well.
“We will definitely be offering voice… the fact that we have submitted the application for participating in the forthcoming 2G and 3G spectrum auctions makes it clear that we are going to enter the voice space,” Reliance Group Chief Financial Officer Alok Agarwal told reporters. He was responding to a question on the much-talked about plan of Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (RJIL), the Mukesh Ambani-led Group’s telecom arm.
Agarwal, who was briefing the media on RIL’s Q3 earnings, however, declined to reveal anything more such as capex plans, tariff, launch time-line, saying, “I am not going to speak anything more on this.”
This is for the first time the company, which before the Group’ division was one of the pioneers in cheaper call rates when it had launched CMDA telephony under Reliance India Mobile brand, has expressed its intention to enter the voice space, which has the cheapest call rates in the world.
Earlier this week, Reliance Jio applied for participation in the spectrum auctions for the 900/1800 Mhz bands, slated for early February. The government has put 16 blocks of 900 Mhz spectrum for auction each in Delhi and Mumbai and 14 blocks in Kolkata.
Earlier this month, Reliance Jio had told PTI it would be offering 10-12 times faster 4G wireless service compared to 3G networks.
“We are practically achieving a speed of 49 megabit per second downlink (download) and uplink is between 8-9 mbps. Theoretically, the present set up that we have, can achieve speed of 112 mbps downlink,” an RJIL official had said.
Reliance Jio is the only Indian company to have nationwide 4G spectrum acquired for over Rs 12,000 crore in the 2010 spectrum auctions. The company is running trial of products, including phone and TV services that it plans to provide through 4G network. It will provide outdoor customer premise equipment (CPE) that will connect to its mobile towers.
Gearing up to foray into TV services market, Reliance Jio has loaded 150 channels that it will provide across all devices – ranging from mobile phone to TV sets using its high speed 4G network.
“We have almost all leading TV channels across all genres from leading houses – Sony, Zee, TV18, Star and others. This is trial phase and we will add more channels as we get ready for commercial launch,” another RJIL official had said earlier.
The domestic cable TV market had more than 9.6 crore subscribers till the end of December 2013, followed by DTH services with over 5.45 crore.
The entry of Reliance into the spectrum auction arena had a debilitating impact on incumbent players whose stocks tanked on fears they will have to shell out much more money due to rising competition, leading to widening of already high debt levels.