On 1 September 2016, Mr Mukesh Ambani announced that the Reliance Jio SIM will be available to everyone from September 5, 2016, including that it’ll charge nothing for voice calls and provide 1 GB of data at only ₹50, a fifth of what mobile phone users had been paying so far. It’s safe to say this announcement was nothing short of historic.
What the Numbers Say
Within two years, Ambani turned the domestic mobile-phone market into the world’s biggest consumer of wireless data. By driving down profits as low as zero, Jio scooped up more than 200 million subscribers and brought them on a nationwide 4G network.
The cost per GB in Rupees in India was approximately ₹360, ₹250, ₹210, and ₹140 in the years 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 respectively. However, the bar suddenly disappears in 2017, the year after Jio was launched, and land at a tiny ₹15.
Thanks to the plunge in prices, the data traffic in India soared to 1.5 billion GBs a month in 2017, which was higher than the USA and China put together. Even consumers who subscribe to Jio benefited from its entry into the market.
Competitors were forced to slash prices and bring their costs down. In fact, the Indian telecom market went from being operated by more than 10 mobile carriers to only three major ones — Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea. At Jio’s onset, Airtel’s profits shrank and Idea suffered heavy losses.
How Jio Changed the Telecom Industry
The numbers speak for themselves, but here are the ways Jio changed the telecom industry in India for the consumers.
- Increase in Data Consumption – With the availability of free (and later cheap) data, the consumption of online content in India increased exponentially. The company reported that data consumption went from 20 crore GB to 120 crore GB within six months, with each user consuming an average of 10 GB every month. Indian consumers had a lot of Internet ground to cover with their newly found data — streaming videos, reading blogs, using social media platforms, playing casino games in mobile phones, streaming music, and much more.
- Faster Mobile Data – Since Jio only offered 4G data and millions of people jumped on the Jio ship, 4G became the norm in the market. Prior to that, 3G was the most used data version among Indians. However, Jio offered 18Mbps speeds while it’s competitors were stuck at 10Mbps. So naturally, mobile data became faster in the country.
- Cheaper Data – As mentioned above, customers had to spend upwards of ₹450 per GB of data before Jio entered the market. However, when Jio started offering 4GB of data per day along continued with 128kbps after it ended, other mobile carriers started feeling the heat. Eventually, when competitors started protesting, Jio started charging for data but kept the prices as low as ₹10 per GB data. This led all other companies bringing their data prices low as well.
- Free Voice Calls – Though Jio has had to start charging for calls across operators, it launched with a promise to keep both local and STD calls always free on its network, to all networks. Other operators caught on this trend and started offering prepaid and postpaid packs with bundled free minutes for STD and local voice calls to all networks.
- Popularity of 4G Smartphones – In late 2015, the 4G technology was relatively new in India. Few people had 4G capable smartphones. But when Jio started offering free access to 4G data, 4G VoLTE-capable smartphones started hitting the market for as low as Rs. 2,999. In fact, 95% of the smartphones sold in India in the first quarter of this year were 4G-capable.
- Success of Online Streaming Services – Jio has reported that its users consume 165 crore hours worth of streaming content on its network each month. Thus, it’s safe to say that Jio is the biggest reason video streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, Youtube, and Jio’s own JioTV are thriving in India today. The biggest proof of this was shown earlier this year when Tseries, an Indian music label company, overtook Pewdiepie to become the most subscribed channel on Youtube.