Reliance Jio set to enter India’s 5G market as early as 2021
Reliance Industries Limited (RIL, or Reliance in short) just concluded its 43rd Annual General Meeting. Chairman and Managing Director Mr. Mukesh Ambani used the opportunity to drop a whole host of announcements centered around Reliance Jio, one of RIL’s subsidiaries. Reliance Jio is one of the world’s fastest-growing telecom operators, which has grown to occupy the number 1 spot in India in a span of just four years. The telecom company has just picked up sizeable investments from the likes of Facebook, Intel, Qualcomm, Google, and others in the past few months, and now, the company has set its eyes on the impending 5G push in India.
Reliance Jio is best known for its 4G push in India, as its advent into the telecom industry provided millions of Indians access to cheap, affordable, and abundant 4G data for the first time. Fast forward four years, and what was once a sector that saw more than 12 operators jostling for a share of the pie now has just four players: Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, and BSNL. We have even predicted a monopoly for Reliance Jio in India’s telecom sector, riding on the minimal impact from AGR judgment that has deeply wounded Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel.
With 5G, Jio aims to continue playing its pivotal role in India’s data revolution. Mr. Mukesh Ambani has mentioned in today’s AGM that “Jio has designed and developed a complete 5G solution from scratch“. Further, this solution will be ready for trials as soon as the 5G spectrum is available in India. And if this spectrum allocation happens soon enough, Jio 5G will also be ready for field deployment next year.
“Jio has designed and developed a complete 5G solution from scratch. It will be ready for trials as soon as 5G spectrum is available and can be ready for field deployment next year.”
This announcement is important for India for a few reasons. One, this indicates Jio’s confidence in scooping up 5G spectrum in India even within a fast-tracked timeline. The country was expected to defer 5G spectrum auctions to 2021, and new reports suggest that it indeed has decided to do so. The auctions in October 2020 are largely expected to be focused on 4G, with 5G (3.3GHz to 3.6GHz) deferred to 2021 in light of the poor health of the telecom sector. Jio’s confidence indicates that it is ready for the auction process. Other telecom players were bargaining for a lower base price for the spectrum, but Jio’s recent capital acquisition spree puts it into the best position to emerge victorious even if the 5G auction proceeds at the high base price (estimated to be ₹4.92 billion ($64.9 million) per MHz) for spectrum in the 5G band.
Further, Mr. Ambani also mentioned that upgrading Jio’s 4G network to 5G would be easy, thanks to its converged all IP network architecture. The company also plans on exporting Jio 5G solution to other telecom operators globally as a completely managed service. Jio is also working on expanding its 4G network further with a collaboration with Google to build entry-level smartphones, and we reckon this partnership could easily spill over to 5G too, once that becomes a reality.
Long story short, Reliance Jio might just become the face of 5G in India, a country with 1.3 billion people.