Reliance launches JioFiber, sets up new battle with Airtel Xstream

Reliance JioFibre
Reliance Industries’ telecom arm, Reliance Jio, announced the commercial launch of JioFiber, its fiber-to-the-home (FTH) service, across 1,600 cities and towns, targeting 20 million homes over the next 12 months. Analysts, however, feel the plans are not as disruptive as the telco's wireless ones, which it launched three years ago.  JioFiber has been running trials of the service since the past two years, for almost 500,000 customers. The plans range from Rs 699 to Rs 8,499 a month. Earlier this week, rival Bharti Airtel launched a new hardware —Xstream box and Xstream smart stick — and revamped the Airtel TV app, calling it Airtel Xstream. 

“The launch of JioFiber with its revolutionary services is just the beginning of a new and exciting journey,” said Akash Ambani, director, Reliance Jio Infocomm. 

While Airtel Xstream includes access to TV channels, JioFiber does not. Airtel’s plans range from Rs 799 to Rs 1,999, with access to OTT (directly over the internet) apps from a Rs 1,099 plan. Jio is offering OTT annual subscription from a Rs 1,299 plan and a three-month access to OTT platforms from their Rs 849 a month plan. The Xstream box can support linear television and OTT, while the stick has inbuilt Chromecast. The Xstream box will come pre-installed with the Airtel Xstream app, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube. Analysts see this as a customer retention tool (existing broadband and Direct-to-Home customers), as well as a value-added service for the post-paid and high-end prepaid customers.

That said, Airtel and Jio’s offerings are not comparable. Jio is offering a host of other services like landline connection, video conferencing, router and set-top box, apart from hardware like bluetooth speakers and television sets (for 1,299 and above annual plans) as part of their welcome offer.

The Xstream box will come pre-installed with the Airtel Xstream app, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube. Recently, Tata Sky introduced a similar service, Tata Sky Binge, offered through the Amazon Fire TV stick. JioFiber plan rentals start at Rs 699 and go up to Rs 8,499, ranging from 100 mbps to 1 Gbps speed. Analysts say this is not as disruptive as its initial wireless mobile plans, despite a number of freebies, including a TV for customers paying Rs 1,299 (if they opt for the annual plan) and above.

Long-term plans for multiple months are more cost-effective. Jio says it will provide bank tie-ups for easy monthly instalment (EMI) schemes, so that customers could apply for annual plans. The claim is that it is pricing the plans at a tenth of current global rates. Airtel is offering internet speeds of up to 300 mbps on higher plans. However, Xstreme is purely a home entertainment service, unlike the integrated home internet offering from Jio.

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