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Reliance Jio begins sale of 4G-enabled Lyf phones; offers free unlimited data for 3 months

This is the first time regular consumers will get access to the Jio 4G network, following the company opening it up for employees late last year.

Updated: Jun 03, 2016, 11.24 AM IST
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Battle for 4G: Rel Jio begin sale of 4G phones
NEW DELHI: In what looks like the first step toward the long-awaited commercial launch of 4G, Reliance Jio has begun selling its Lyf smartphones with SIM cards enabled for the high-speed service in India’s bigger cities. This is the first time regular consumers will get access to the Jio 4G network, following the company opening it up for employees late last year.

The SIM cards come with three months of free unlimited data and 4,500 minutes of voice calls, suggesting that a commercial launch — even if limited — may just be a quarter away. Analysts though widely expect Jio to launch full-scale commercial operations later this year, around December.

Jio’s move coincides with the launch of Jio.com, the website through which consumers can register and obtain Jio connections.

With this, the company has also stepped away from the system of employees referring up to 10 people as potential buyers of Lyf phones along with a 4G Jio SIM.

Reliance Jio declined to comment on developments related to its commercial launch.

It’s been six years since the Mukesh Ambani-run Jio acquired 4G spectrum in the 2300 Mhz band, strengthening its holdings since then in the 800 and 1800 Mhz bands.

It has also entered into a spectrum sharing agreement with Reliance Communications, run by brother Anil Ambani, in 17 circles.

Besides this, Jio also has a spectrum-trading agreement with RCom. It has also inked infrastructure sharing pacts with various telecom tower companies such as Reliance Infratel, Bharti Infratel, Indus Towers and Viom Networks.

Mukesh Ambani has previously called Jio the world’s biggest startup, with an investment of over Rs 1.5 lakh crore, which will offer broadband speeds that are up to 80 times faster than current offerings, at affordable rates.

Many expect Jio’s launch to trigger a price war, hurting financials of incumbent telcos. Major players such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular have already launched 4G services, and are lowering data tariffs to attract new and retain old customers in the lead up to Jio’s launch.

Lyf phones with 4G SIM cards are being sold in large-format retail stores in Delhi-NCR, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai, and tier-1 cities in states such as Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, said people aware of the matter.

Reliance Digital and Reliance Digital Mini store executives in several cities confirmed the development as did retailers and store owners that have partnered with Jio to sell Lyf phones.

LOW-KEY SALES PITCH
Some store executives said the phones with the 4G card have been available since last week but they have been asked to keep the sales pitch at a low key so there’s no unexpected surge in the customer base.

In April this year, Jio said it served more than 500,000 customers but would launch commercially when its user base reached a few million.

Jio’s strategy and planning head Anshuman Thakur had added that the company was awaiting the integration of spectrum that it expects to get from the sharingand-trading pact with RCom.

“As it needs a lot of optimisation, which will lead to some disturbances in services, we want to ensure that once commercially launched the service is seamless,” he had said.

Jio has so far been offering services to Reliance group employees, partners and referrals. That entailed buying a Lyf phone bundled with free and unlimited 4G data and voice services for three months.

Lately, the employees could invite 10 others who could get similar offers. But in the latest move, the offers have been opened to even those without invites.

The new website will help the company build a database of potential customers who will gain access to Jio’s 4G and app-based content services through the Lyf smartphones, said a person with knowledge of this. Jio may also offer discounts on Lyf devices to these people, the person said.

The website provides a preview of Jio’s app-based content services such as MyJio, JioChat, Jio-Play, JioOnDemand, etc.

The trial will help the company test its network and services and allow it to push sales of Lyf devices, which are sourced from vendors such as ZTE, CK Telecom, Wingtech and Tinno.

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