Reliance Jio is Hitting Indian Telcos Left Right And Centre All For Customers Good But No, It’s Not Really Free!

Akash and Mukesh Ambani at an event to unravel tariff details of Reliance Jio. PC: Business Standard

Free voice calls, lowest data tariff in the world, complimentary all-free services for three months — Reliance is back into Telecom business and if initial reaction of market is anything to go by, it is here to disrupt everything as we know it today. But remember, nothing really is free not even what is Free!

If there is one thing that we Indians are crazy about, it’s anything that’s free. And people behind Reliance Jio know it very well. In an Indian telecom arena where big players like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone are already spread all over the length and breadth of India leaving the very little remaining space for other competitors, Reliance if it was serious of making any comeback that could be felt then it was supposed to make the ‘bombshell’ announcement. And it did exactly just that and lot more today when it announce arrival of Reliance Jio.
The biggest bombshell it left today was the announcement that domestic calls will be free for lifetime. Roaming too is going to be free. Telcos for the long time since we know it have been charging for voice calling which is anything but exchange of data between two points. Be it local or roaming, it is basically data. It is to be noted here how Airtel and others where pressurizing govt bodies to let them charge Whatsapp, Skype and other services for voice calls made through this apps as they were eating their revenue. Thanks for the wider outrage and people who petitioned Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), their plans didn’t materialize. Mahesh Murthy in his Facebook update pointed it just out,
“Voice is just data. Roaming is just data between two points on the Internet. This has been true for years. Neither should have ever been charged. Telcos hid this for years and robbed us. Glad that #RelianceJio has pulled back the veil.”

Now one may wonder from where does Reliance plans to earn from all this ‘charity’? Well, Mukesh Ambani says the data and other services will be charged. But again, the charges Reliance Jio plans are the lowest in the world, forget their comparison with Indian telcos. For instance, you will get One GB of data in just Rs. 25-50. Now compare that with Rs. 251 Vodafone charges for a GB of 3G data. There are many tariff plans from occasional users to regulars to choose from.
Also, for first three months after its formal launch on September 5, you’ll get unlimited free data to browse.

That’s not all. There are cheapest tariff plans starting at Rs. 19, simple registration process with eKYC and lot more. As Mukesh Ambani spoke about all this solid plans at the event, shares of different Telecom operators started to tumble. It would be exciting to see how they will cope in coming days to this onslaught. What is sure in this battle is that the smile is back on the face of customer — Customer is the real beneficiary of this war. At least for now.

But What Is The Catch Here?

The calls you make are different from how you used to call till date. Reliance Jio calls are purely carried over data network. So if data is not active on your phone then you won’t be able to make calls from your Jio network. Jio is built in such a way that everything is passed through the data network. It saves cost. In tech terms this is called Voice Over LTE(VoLTE).

But Really, Is it all free? Just Like That?

You bet it not!
Nothing is free in this world, not even that which is Free!
Remember the time when Tata Docomo enetered telecom sector with its 1 paise per second plan and how everyone jumped on to it. Not just that, other telcos too started the same plan. But what happened once they got their share of customers and things cooled down? Reliance Jio too may plan something similar. In a market that is already stabilized, they needed to announce things that will stir it up. And they have done just that. People will switch to the ‘free’ network, those who have two SIM slots in their phones will insert Jio on one to ‘just check’ and the fence sitters who don’t care which carrier they use will jump on to Jio bandwagon. Three months is quite a time to get people hooked. It is not very much different from free alcohol or drugs. Three months is the time they invest in you, to get you drugged. Later months is when they milk you. For one thing or the other, Reliance is not here to do charity but business. They are here to compete and snatch the space which is already cluttered by others. No doubt, the customer will sure benefit, at least for the starting three months. But beware, Jio comes with its own set of apps which you have to install to get that prized barcode required to obtain its SIM card.

Also if you really want to understand the back story and even how Supreme Court ignored evidence against Reliance regarding Reliance Jio, care to read this lengthy and well researched piece from Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.
The Supreme Court has ignored evidence of apparent forgery and auction-rigging while dismissing a petition seeking to quash the government’s decision permitting Reliance Jio to provide voice telephone services over fourth-generation spectrum. The company, headed by India’s richest man, has also failed to meet its roll-out obligations. The apex court should review its decision.

As ‘Free’ will ring in all of our ears for some time now, remember the villain from Kingsman.


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