Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, the telecom unit of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), appears set for its commercial launch in the next few months, recent developments indicate.

Much of the work required ahead of the launch is complete and, over the past week, Reliance Jio has been terminating contracts with people hired to work on specific projects.

On 6 May, Asia-based equity broker and investment group CLSA said in a note that Reliance Jio may begin commercial operations from October.

On 9 May, Morgan Stanley said it expects the Jio launch in the next three-nine months.

“RIL indicated that spectrum from Reliance Communications (850Mhz) will be integrated in the coming weeks, setting the stage for a full-scale roll-out," Morgan Stanley said.

RIL, controlled by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, has a spectrum-sharing and trading deal with Reliance Communications Ltd, a part of his younger brother Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group.

Reliance Jio has been laying the ground for a formal launch by expanding the trial service of Jio SIM cards to friends and family of employees and distributors on an invite-only basis.

This follows an initial employees-only launch.

In the report titled ‘Building Jio Into Estimates’, CLSA analysts Vikash Kumar Jain, Deepti Chaturvedi and Akshat Agarwal wrote, “With Jio willing to showcase its services to a larger user base, we may be nearing a commercial launch. We model a start of Jio’s commercial operations from October ’16... and model in 25 million/70 million subscribers by the end of FY17-18."

RIL has invested close to 1.5 trillion in its telecom venture. In March, Mukesh Ambani described Reliance Jio as the world’s largest start-up.

Till last June, RIL had nearly 167,500 people across India working on Jio. The number may have gone up to an estimated 180,000 in 2015, an RIL executive said on condition of anonymity.

“Over 150,000 people across India are engaged in building out the network and distribution capabilities to make Jio, our telecom broadband business, a reality. The Jio team has grown rapidly over the past year to over 17,500 full-time employees," Mukesh Ambani said at the company’s 41st annual general meeting on 12 June 2015.

With many of the projects complete, “people hired on a project-to-project basis" have been “released", added the RIL executive.

Reliance Jio’s spokesperson did not respond to an email seeking comment.

In many cases, the projects were completed ahead of time, the executive said. The employees were originally contracted for a period of two years, but many projects were completed within a year, he said.

“We gave them a week’s notice and a month’s salary as per the terms of the contract," the executive added.

“Jio had hired some of the best minds in the business at exceptional pay packages. Once they finished putting the system in place, their services were no longer required," said a senior executive with a global recruitment agency, who asked not to be identified.

Under the recently launched trials for friends of employees, a user gets a trial SIM card and a LYF smartphone. Each employee can refer up to 10 friends.

The services on offer include unlimited voice calls and 4G data for a period of three months. The trial SIM cards are available only with LYF phones.

Last week, RIL launched the first of its smartphones, LYF Water 5, exclusively on online marketplace Amazon. The smartphone is priced at 11,699.

RIL is now in talks with multiple online and consumer electronics retailers to sell LYF smartphones and smart television sets. Jio started selling LYF phones in January and TV sets in March, through Reliance Digital and Digital Express stores.

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