From April this year, you will have to pay for services of Reliance Jio, that took the telecom market by storm through its free offerings. Jio on Tuesday announced plans to charge customers, while increasing the number of tariff plans to widen choice of its offerings.
Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance, said the company has managed to breach the coveted 100-million subscriber mark within six months of its launch on September 5. "Jio's extremely popular... Happy New Year Offer is approaching its end on March 31. Starting April 1, Jio will start offering its tariff plans," Ambani said in a speech.
The company will have a variety of pay options that subscribers can choose from. Users can continue to have free-calling facility with an entry monthly post-paid tariff of Rs 149 (that gives 300 MB data), Rs 499 (4 GB data), and this plan can go up to Rs 4,999 that offers 75 GB of 4G data.
Jio also announced a new offer called 'Prime' that promises higher benefits. A membership of Prime can be availed by Jio customers throughout March and will cost Rs 99 annually. Under this, a customer gets free calling and unlimited data downloads for a full year by paying a fixed tariff of Rs 303 per month. Also, a Prime member will be entitled for higher data benefits if he chooses to go for Jio's regular tariff plans and not Rs 303 offering.
"Prime members can get the full bouquet of Jio's media services ... worth over Rs 10,000 for an annual subscription... completely free... for one full year," Ambani said.
He also said the company will match the highest-selling tariffs of rival operators, with a promise to provide 20% more data. Jio had been one of the key catalyst to boost data consumption across the country. "Jio users consumed more than 100 crore GB of data on the network. That is more than 3.3 crore GB a day," Ambani said.
Analysts said charging for services will be one of the biggest challenges for the new telco as it has managed a fast customer-acquisition run, mainly on the back of its free offerings. A number of quality issues and high call failure rate, which Jio has blamed on rivals due to alleged denial of inter-connect points, need to be sorted out as customers start paying. "They will now have to go through the usual challenges that any telecom company faces — to tackle issues related to quality of service, billing errors etc. That will be a test of the network, and also the organisation," a leading sector analyst said, though requesting anonymity.
"The price points and tariffs announced by Jio are good news for the consumer. The industry is pleased to see the commencement of paid services as the market will now become the place where consumer choice and preference will be revealed," said Rajan S Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India COAI, a telecom lobby group controlled by Jio's rivals such as Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular. Jio is also a member of COAI, but has raised several questions over its governance and control.