Indian operator Reliance Jio Infocomm is planning to use Wi-Fi hotspots to facilitate 4G data usage once it rolls out its 4G network in December.
As many Indian consumers don’t yet have 4G-enabled devices, Jio plans to expand the addressable user base by allowing customers to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots to stream data through 4G networks. It aims to drive adoption of this technique by discounting Wi-Fi compatible devices, dubbed ‘Mi-Fi’ devices.
Mi-Fi devices typically cost around INR3,000, as opposed to the INR5,000 ($75) that 4G smartphones generally cost. While prices for all handsets have fallen significantly in the last 2 years, Jio is now set to slash the price of Mi-Fi devices by as much as 50%, according to telecom analyst Sandip Agarwal.
Jio’s goal is to grow its 4G customer base by encouraging its rivals’ heaviest data users to switch onto its network. However, it has its work cut out for it – Airtel already offers Mi-Fi access via hotspots, and it will launch nationwide 4G services in the next few months, along with rival heavyweights Vodafone India and Idea Cellular. Aircel and state provider BSNL will also roll out 4G in a similar timeframe.
Airtel has already stated that it aims to push its 4G coverage across almost 300 urban areas in India by the end of the year, while Vodafone India is launching 4G in 5 major Indian cities by year-end. Aircel is aiming to deploy in 8 telecom circles within the same timeframe, while Idea and BSNL hope to have rolled our 4G by early next year.