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Jio signs up 16 million 4G subs; target, 100 million

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MUMBAI: Think Big. Think Global. That’s been the motto of Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani. And, now the world’s biggest start-up Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. (Jio) -- which he has been incubating for more than half a decade -- has announced that it has achieved a global first.

The number of registered sign-ups Jio has achieved in the first month of its 4G commercial launch – September 2016 -- has crossed 16 million. That’s a faster adoption rate than that achieved by any telco or any start-up like Facebook, WhatsApp and Skype.

And, of course, Ambani is pleased as punch by the consumer response. Said he in a press release: “We are delighted and humbled by the overwhelming response across India to the Jio Welcome Offer. Jio is built to empower every Indian with the power of data. We are delighted that people have recognized this and are utilizing our services to the fullest. We are customer-obsessed and committed to improve every day to exceed expectations of our customers.”

Observers say Jio’s subscriber number could have been higher had Ambani and Jio managed to not run into a wall with older competitors like Airtel, Vodafone, Idea. Jio – which has made calls free – reported humungous amount of call failures because its rivals disallowed call connections by the newbie’s users.

Jio is looking to disrupt the entire Indian telecom ecosystem. While all Indian telcos charge for calls, Jio announced that it would not be charging for calls made using its network. And it announced cheaper data plans than rivals. It has been running its Jio Welcome Offer wherein all its services – including data and apps – are free for customers until 31 December 2016. Last week, it announced an offer for iPhone users wherein buyers of the 7, the 7 Plus, the 6, the 6 Plus, 6S, 6S Plus, and the 5SE would not be charged for data and services for 12 months.

To top it all, Jio has introduced Aadhaar-based paper-less Jio SIM activation across 3,100 cities and towns. This enables the customer to complete the SIM activation process in a matter of minutes, with only his/her Aadhaar number.

The press release states that the “this process will be extended across the country and fully stabilized for satisfactory on-boarding experience in the next few weeks.”

Ambani announced at the company’s AGM at the beginning of this month that Jio had set its ambitions high. His goal was to have 100 million subscribers to its services within a year.

Rivals have been scrambling to ward off the Jio onslaught, dropping prices for data and bandwidth, as well as offering value added services at promotional rates.

The overall Indian telecom sector has been seeing shifts too. According to the latest telecom data up to 31 July 2016, the wireless telecom subscriber base shrank to 1034.2 million as against 1035.1 million in end June. Amongst the big losers in the month were Reliance Communications which shed 32.4 lakh customers, and Tata Teleservices and Sistema lost 6,96,325 and 2,28,626 subscribers.

Bharti Airtel led in the gainers table, adding a net 10.7 lakh new customers, taking its total sub base to 256.8 million, whereas Vodafone added 326,248 to take its tally to 199.7 million. Idea signed up 256,170 users taking its final number to 176.4 million.

With Jio expected to spread out its availability further in the coming months, observers are expecting the battles to continue.

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