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Reliance Jio 4G launch hit with further delay

Reliance Jio Infocomm has reportedly delayed its 4G launch again, pushing its plans into the next fiscal year.

Having acquired spectrum in 2010, Reliance Jio has been lining up a pan-Indian commercial 4G launch which was last scheduled for December. However, it has now stated in a stock exchange filing that the “financial year 2016-17 is projected to be the first year of commercial operations for RJIL”.

Jio’s ongoing “extensive beta launch” will now be extended in the coming weeks to improve the quality of the network before it goes live on a full commercial basis. The operator is the first to acquire a pan-Indian unified licence, and has invested $15 billion into its network. It holds 751.1MHz of spectrum in the 800MHz, 1.8GHz and 2.3GHz bands.

The operator has postponed its 4G launch several times, having obtained its first spectrum 5 years ago. It has incurred fines by missing deadlines, such as earlier this year when it claimed in April that it would have commercial services in operation across 5 cities by June. This series of delays may have cost Jio any first-mover advantage it could have gained, as other Indian operators are accelerating their 4G campaigns.

In particular, market leader Bharti Airtel stated in August that it would extend its 4G coverage across 296 urban centres. It currently offers services in 45 cities and towns. Meanwhile, number two Vodafone has confirmed that it will offer 4G services by the end of 2015 in 5 cities, including major metropolitan areas Delhi and Mumbai. Third-placed Idea Cellular will deploy services across 10 regions early next year. Between them, the top three operators hold a 59% share of the country’s 941 million subscribers.

In its H1 financial results, Jio’s parent company Reliance Industries reported that the operator had “substantially completed network rollout across the country, which is currently being tested and optimised. It expects to ramp up its beta programme over the next few weeks”.

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