An investor focused event, you’d imagine, would be all about numbers. It has been anything but just that for Reliance Industries, over the years. As we head into the 44th annual general meeting (AGM) of Reliance Industries, there is expectation that we could see announcements that would again shake up the world of tech, keeping Reliance Jio in focus. This edition of the AGM follows up last year’s edition, which was the first ever in a virtual format. Announcements are expected for RIL, Reliance Foundation, Reliance Jio and Reliance Retail. Could we get updates for Jio 5G mobile networks for India, the affordable 5G smartphone developed along with tech giant Google or even the next evolution of the JioFiber broadband? This is perhaps as good a time as any, to look at some of the biggest Reliance Jio announcements made during the AGMs, over the past few years.
2016—Reliance Jio 4G: You will struggle to find a bigger game-changed in the Indian telecom space. When Jio was rolled out with a bang, bundling free local and STD voice calls, zero roaming charges and unlimited 4G data use in the night hours, it really changed the way we pay for mobile services. At the time, the prices for Jio mobile services started at Rs 149 for a validity of 28 days, but it was the bundle which really made customers take notice—all Jio apps, including JioTV, JioCinema and JioMusic were part of the single subscription. Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries, had said at the time that Jio had a target of 100 million. Fast forward to now, and Reliance Jio has been ranked as the strongest brand in India for the year 2021, by the Brand Finance 2021 report. At an earnings call earlier this year, Reliance Jio said that the company has already clocked a 426 million strong customer base.
2017—JioPhone: Called ‘India ka smartphone’, the Reliance JioPhone which was first launched in 2017 became the most affordable 4G VoLTE enabled phone in India. Certain offers at the time made the effective price of the JioPhone as Rs 0, after you paid an initial Rs 1,500 to buy it. JioPhone users got unlimited data, unlimited local and national calls as well as access to a bunch of Jio apps and services. Subsequently, the second edition of the JioPhone called JioPhone 2 was launched at the AGM the very next year, priced at Rs 2,999 and with upgraded specs including a larger display. At the AGM last year, RIL confirmed that more than 100 million Jio Phones have been sold already.
2018—The Jio Family of Services: It was at the 2018 AGM that Reliance Industries announced the JioGigaFiber broadband as it was called then, the TV services as well as the smart home solutions. For JioPhone users, there was the chance to upgrade to the new JioPhone 2 with upgraded specs with a new design that gave it a larger footprint, as well as confirmation that the JioPhone devices would also support WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube apps.
2019—JioFiber Wired Broadband: The JioFiber broadband service was commercially rolled out in 2019, weeks after confirmation at the 42nd AGM of Reliance Industries. A lot changed in the broadband space in India, which hadn’t seen innovation or a push for speeds or customer service, in a long time. We often credit Jio for changing the very landscape of mobility services in India with affordable prices and quality of 4G network coverage. The data suggests since JioFiber made its way into the home broadband market, rivals have had to really get their act together. Fiber broadband is the way forward, and rivals such as Airtel Xstream, Tata Sky Broadband and ACT making an aggressive push over the past 12 months is a continued indication that the pressure is on. Reliance JioFiber broadband services are priced Rs 399 per month onwards, with speeds up to 1Gbps and prepaid as well as postpaid billing options available, including in long-term subscription options.
2020—Make In India Push For Jio 5G: Reliance Jio gave India it’s biggest push yet for 5G mobile networks, when the company announced the focus on 5G as a technology and the commitment to make a home-grown 5G solution for mobile networks. “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,” Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries, had said at the time. This announcement resonated widely at a time when the anti-China sentiment was at a high in India, and also coincided with the US and China trade war which put 5G tech made by Chinese companies including Huawei, in the limelight, as threats to national security, economic security, privacy, intellectual and human rights. Reliance Jio has plans to launch 5G services in India by the end of the year.
2020—Google Investment And 5G For The Masses: Reliance Jio continues to focus on pushing affordable 5G smartphones in India, ahead of the expected 5G rollout in the coming months. Reliance Industries announced the Rs 33,373 crore investment by technology giant Google in Jio Platforms for a 7.7% stake, at the RIL AGM last year. “As India is standing at the doorsteps of the 5G era, we should accelerate the migration of 350 million Indians, who currently use a 2G feature phone, to an affordable smart phone”, said Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries. “Have sold 100 million Jio Phones till date. But there are many feature phone users waiting to upgrade to a conventional smart phone. We believe we can design an entry level 4G or even a 5G smart phone. We believe that we can design such a phone at a fraction of the current cost. Google and Jio are partnering to build a value-engineered Android based smartphone Operation System,” he added. The attempt is to get all users in India to upgrade from 2G mobile networks to a much faster data experience.
2020—Jio-Google Affordable Android Phone For India: Reliance Jio also announced that they are working with tech giant Google, for a custom Android-based smartphone operating system which is expected to power the affordable 5G smartphones, while retaining strengths including the Google Play Store for apps. This platform will also be developed in India. Whether we would see the new Jio and Google smartphone at this year’s AGM, is still not clear. Jio also says they will also provide affordable 4G devices to more than 300 million feature phone users in India. JioPhone remains the most affordable 4G phone in the world. “Google and Jio Platforms have entered into a commercial agreement to jointly develop an entry-level affordable smartphone with optimizations to the Android operating system and the Play Store. Together we are excited to rethink, from the ground up, how millions of users in India can become owners of smartphones,” said Sanjay Gupta, Country Head & VP, India at Google, said in an official statement, at the time.