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Reliance Jio offering India’s cheapest data and free voice ahead of launch

Indian newcomer Reliance Jio has revealed its 4G data pricing along with a launch offer of free domestic voice calls.

In a move that will likely initiate a price war in an already highly competitive market, Mukesh Ambani - chairman of Jio’s parent firm Reliance Industries – announced the “free welcome offer” at the company’s AGM. Subscribers will be able to call for free from 5th September to 31st December, at which point commercial operations will come into effect.

Jio has been trialling its services for the past few months, with around 1.5 million users signing up. This has ruffled the feathers of several incumbent operators in India, prompting COAI (the Cellular Operators Association of India) to call foul on Jio’s trial, claiming that operator is offering a full service under the guise of a test. Jio dismissed these allegations as an attempt to sabotage its launch.

Operators have reason to be wary of Jio, with Ambani asserting that no Jio customers “will ever have to pay for voice calls again” as all “active users” would be able to call for free. Of the ten tariffs on offer at launch, available freebies include free data access at night time and free roaming. The newcomer is providing data for one-tenth of the prices typically offered by incumbents such as market leader Bharti Airtel.

Indeed, Jio’s cheapest data offer prices one GB at just over INR50 ($0.7), making it the cheapest data in the world. This strategy looks set to shake up the Indian data market, and could see the country transition from a market in which data is typically expensive to one of the world’s cheapest. Ambani made no bones about the impact that he intends Jio to have on the market, saying “from the 5th of September, India will change forever.”

The operator is offering a huge range of data plans, with monthly fees of as low as INR19 for very light data users, INR149 for light users, and a far higher INR4,999 for very heavy users, which provides a monthly allowance of 75GB.

Ambani has stated that the operator intends for its network to cover 90% of the country’s population by March 2017, with the eventual goal of covering 18,000 cities and 200,000 villages across India. This ambitious schedule may help it reach its goal of hitting the 100 million customer milestone as quickly as possible.

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