Mumbai: In the next one year, 4G coverage in India will exceed that of 2G, Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), predicted on Wednesday at the first edition of the India Mobile Congress in New Delhi.
Reliance Jio Infocomm, the telecom unit of RIL that Ambani has described as the world’s biggest start-up, began its commercial operations last year with 4G services that attracted 100 million subscribers in less than six months. To start with, Jio, in which Ambani initially invested Rs. 1.5 trillion, offered a combination of free Internet access and free voice calls.
“I believe that in the next 10 years, India will grow from a $2.5 trillion economy to a $7 trillion economy and rank among the top three economies in the world. And to make this happen, the Indian telecom and IT industry has to play a foundational role in creating the digital infrastructure," Ambani said in his speech.
Over the last one year, India has leapfrogged from the 155th position in mobile broadband penetration to being the world’s largest mobile data consuming nation.
Ambani added that mobile internet and cloud computing are the foundational technologies in the fourth industrial revolution, which India has the opportunity to lead. Industrial Revolution 4.0 is set to usher in more dramatic transformations globally than the three previous revolutions, he said.
“Data is the new oil. India does not need to import it. We have it in super-abundance. As an industry, we have the urgent task of empowering 1.3 billion Indians with the tools needed to flourish in the digital marketplace. We have to provide ubiquitous access to high-speed data at affordable prices," Ambani said.
“We have to ensure that every Indian has access to an affordable smartphone that connects him to limitless knowledge and the power of the Internet," Ambani said.
RIL is rolling out its affordable smartphone --JioPhone-- this week for a refundable deposit of ₹ 1,500 and plans to deliver the first lot of the device to the users before Diwali, 19 October.
Ambani said India needs to instil confidence in new technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, internet of things (IoT), cloud computing, big data analytics, 3-D printing, blockchain, nanotechnology that will be the enablers of a new wave of wealth and employment creation.
“India must embark on the task of connecting everything and everyone via the super internet of things. This will enable 130 crore Indians to collaborate directly with one another, democratizing economic life like never before. Digitisation of education, training and human resource development in a comprehensive manner must be regarded as a precondition for the success of Digital India," added Ambani.
Since its launch, Jio has been locked in a bitter battle with older telecom players led by Bharti Airtel Ltd. The incumbents have accused it of using its deep pockets to disrupt the market and create a monopoly.
“Let’s not forget – India provides a big enough opportunity for all of us to grow – and prosper – together. The opportunity to pave the path for our nation’s progress and create a better quality of life for every Indian beckons us," Ambani said.
With an investment of Rs.7.5 trillion in voice connectivity alone, the Indian telecom industry has moved from 200 million users seven years ago to 1 billion users today, according to Idea Cellular Ltd CEO Himanshu Kapania.
“Hopefully, 4G would yield Rs.175 to Rs.200 average revenue per user, compared to less than Rs.100 that it yields currently," he said.
“The government has to decide, does it only want forward looking technologies, or will it allow co-existence of 2G with 4G. The Trai (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) has clearly pushed us to a level that only one technology will survive and all older technologies will close down," Kapania said at the India Mobile Congress.