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Jio may use US$4.4bn to lay OFC, expand network to stifle competition

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MUMBAI: It's common knowledge that Reliance Jio, Mukesh Ambani's telecom venture, is up against incumbent rivals such as Vodafone, Bharti Airtel, and Idea Cellular. Jio closed 2016 with 72.4 million subscribers. Last September, it claimed to be the fastest growing technology operation in the globe after signing up 50 million subs in 83 days.

Ambani has already invested Rs 1,71,000 crore (approx US$25 billion) into Jio to build India’s first fourth-generation (4G)-only infrastructure to provide high-speed internet. He recently announced that Jio will raise another Rs 30,000 crore through a rights issue, which will be used to expand existing network and lay additional optical fibre cable (OFC). OFC is vital for high-speed internet as it joins one telecom tower, transmitting air waves for wireless connectivity, to the other, via cables.

Reliance announced plans for a rights issue of convertible preference shares at Jio to raise US$ 4.4 billion. A part of the funds will be used to continue funding its free internet services, which has been a reason for regulatory tussle with other telecom operators.

Vodafone is fighting a legal case against Jio. Bharti CMD Sunil Mittal said that Jio’s free services started an unfair competition.

Jio has already acquired 72 million subscribers, and is adding six lakh new ones every day, the company says. Jio’s offers set off a price war. Airtel now is offering Rs 9,000 of free 4G data to new subs and has also cut down its data prices by two-thirds. Idea also is offering several schemes to data users.

Jio is getting more subscribers with an introductory and then New Year offer of free services until March. The company also claims the most extensive Indian 4G network which will reach soon 90 per cent population.

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