Mukesh Ambani announces high-speed broadband, Jio Phone 2 with WhatsApp, FB

Mukesh Ambani arrives for the 41st AGM of Reliance Industries Ltd at Birla Matoshree, in Mumbai on 05th July 2018 | Photo: Kamlesh Pednekar
Reliance Industries Limited announced on Thursday the launch of high-speed Jio GigaFiber broadband, which aims to boost fixed-line connectivity in India, and an upgraded version of its Jio Phone with popular social media apps such as Facebook.

At its 41st Annual General Meeting in Mumbai, RIL Chairman Mukesh Ambani announced the broadband for homes and enterprises across 1,100 cities and an e-commerce platform that may rival the likes of Amazon. He also spelt out the milestones achieved by Jio, which has disrupted the telecom industry and triggered a price war.

The fixed-line broadband will offer "ultra-high-definition entertainment on large screen TVs, multi-party video conferencing from your living room, voice-activated virtual assistants, virtual reality gaming, digital shopping, immersive experiences", said Ambani, India’s richest man.

The service will come directly to homes, unlike in most cases where the fibre reaches only until the building. The last few meters of end connectivity is usually done using the traditional cable, which reduces the speed and user experience.

"While India has pole-vaulted into global leadership in the mobile broadband space...we still lag behind significantly in fixed-line broadband. India is ranked quite low at 134th in the global ranking for fixed broadband. Poor fixed-line infrastructure has been a key reason for this," Ambani said.

Jio, Reliance's telecom service firm, will move India to top five nations in fixed-line broadband in the coming year, he said, but did not give pricing of the new offering or its launch date.

Jio GigaFiber trials are underway and registrations will start this Independence Day. The company will prioritize the launch in areas that will send the highest number of applications.

At the event, the company also unveiled the Jio Phone 2, which will be priced at Rs 2,999 and hit the market on August 15. Under a monsoon offer, the company said, feature phones can be exchanged for Jio Phones at an additional cost of Rs 501.

In a video demonstration, the company explained how Jio Phone 2’s YouTube, Facebook and WhatsApp services will respond to a customer’s voice. JioPhone 2 boasts a horizontal screen display and a qwerty keypad.

"We have more than 25 million Jio Phone users in India. We are now taking the Jio Phone to the next level, with added capabilities and functionalities," Ambani said.

The new offerings, alongside the strengthening of the mainstay energy and petrochemicals business, will help double the size of oil-to-telecom conglomerate Reliance Industries to $125 billion by 2025, he told the company's shareholders.

"As Reliance transitions to become a technology platform company, we see our biggest growth opportunity in creating a hybrid, online-to-offline new commerce platform," he said, complementing the firm's retail business.

"We shall create this by integrating and synergizing the power of Reliance Retail's physical marketplace with the fabulous strengths of Jio's digital infrastructure and services." 

Reliance Retail, with a footfall of 350 million last year at its 7,500 stores is the largest, fastest growing and most profitable retail company in India, he said.

Speaking on the firm's traditional businesses, he said Reliance was nearing the end of its largest-ever investment with the commissioning of world's largest Paraxylene complex, petcoke gasification project and an off-gas cracker, and planned the start of a Butyl rubber project later this year.

"It is our belief that with the rapidly increasing demand for petrochemicals maximizing 'Oil to Chemicals' conversion will play a catalytic role in determining the profitability of hydrocarbons businesses of the future," he said.

"As the world migrates from fossil fuels to renewable energy, we will further maximize this Oil to Chemicals conversion and upgrade all of our fuels to high-value petrochemicals." 

Ambani said Reliance and its partner BP were working to produce 30-35 million standard cubic meters per day of gas from satellite fields in KG-D6 block by 2022.