Coming soon: Reliance Jio’s broadband onslaught

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Published: July 23, 2018 1:03:50 AM

After storming through the airwaves with its 4G and other cellular services, Reliance Jio has its sights set on the fixed-line broadband, cable and satellite (C&S) ecosystem, with JioGigaFiber.

Nita Ambani and Mukesh Ambani (Express Photo)

After storming through the airwaves with its 4G and other cellular services, Reliance Jio has its sights set on the fixed-line broadband, cable and satellite (C&S) ecosystem, with JioGigaFiber. The service will target households, merchants and small businesses simultaneously. Reliance is currently running beta trials of JioGigaFiber across thousands of households; and from August 15, the company will allow for registering for the service through the Jio website and app. “We will prioritise our JioGigaFiber rollout to those localities from where we receive the highest number of registrations,” chairman Mukesh Ambani had said at the recent Reliance AGM.
The fibre-to-home business in India is murky at best and fraudulent at worst. There are multiple stakeholders and it requires a series of administrative approvals. Reliance has invested `2,50,000 crore in terms of capital to get the infrastructure ready to roll out.

Big ambitions
As per India Ratings, the country has a fixed broadband subscriber base of about 18 million, representing about 7% of the total household base of nearly 290 million and 10% of TV household penetration. The penetration levels are low compared to the global average. RJio has set a target of 50 million households, representing 18% of the total households. “We estimate that at the current monthly broadband tariff of `500-600 per household, the potential market size for 50 million households could be `30,000-36,000 crore — a significant portion of which could be tapped by RJio,” says Prashant Tarwadi, director — corporates and GIG, India Ratings.
The cable will carry high speed internet which can turn a household into a smart home. High speed data will open up new avenues for smart devices and home security, and it could also change television viewing patterns. JioTV has already signed deals with most of the top broadcasters to ensure that the platform has the necessary content to woo consumers. “Speed is not what makes Reliance superior; the service and the content does. Every major player invests around `200-250 crore every year to widen its reach by laying fibre. It is the same fibre that Reliance is using, so the speed will be the same,” notes Tarwadi.

The content push
JioTV, along with live TV, offers a bouquet of movies and premium dramas produced by the OTT platform, etc. The telco has also invested in Ekta Kapoor’s Balaji Telefilms, and is empowered by the broadcast offering of Viacom18 and its digital wing Voot. Jio has also roped in former executive director of Eros International — Jyoti Deshpande, and associated with Roy Kapur Films (RKF) — the new venture of Siddharth Roy Kapur.

“Unlike telecom, where players like Airtel with strong balance sheets were able to withstand the disruption, the C&S universe will face potentially an existential challenge with JioGigaFiber, with the exception of a few well-run operations,” says RC Venkateish, media veteran and former CEO of Dish TV.

Tarwadi agrees that existing players will get impacted. “During FY19-20, high density markets are likely to witness stiff competition as the overall ecosystem is already in place for RJio to start providing its offerings. Regional players operating in tier III and IV towns may not be a direct threat, albeit the long term risk beyond FY20 remains,” he sums up.

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