Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (Jio), the telecom unit of billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), will launch its much-awaited services on 27 December.

The date holds significance as it falls a day before the birth anniversary of group founder Dhirubhai Ambani.

However, the launch will be restricted to the group’s 80,000-odd employees and close partners, who are likely to get up to five connections each, translating to as many as four lakh customers, senior executives of the company said, on condition of anonymity.

The launch of commercial services is still a few months away, the executives clarified.

The services will be free for the first three months, the idea being to test the network before it goes live across the country. Once the services are launched commercially, employees will get billed. They will, however, have to buy their own devices.

This is the second time that the group is commemorating its founder with a telecom launch. Back in 2002, Reliance Communications Ltd, then an arm of RIL, launched its services with a call from then telecom minister Pramod Mahajan to then prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee from the company’s office.

In June, Ambani told RIL shareholders that Jio would launch operations in December and fiscal 2016-17 would be its first “full" year of operations.

This was followed by an RIL statement in its second quarter analyst presentation, where it said Jio would launch services by the end of the current fiscal—an indication that the launch would be delayed beyond December.

The event to launch Jio’s 4G technology-based services will be hosted by actor Shah Rukh Khan and will also see a performance by music director A.R. Rahman.

The venue will be the Reliance Corporate Park in Mumbai, and it will be broadcast live to the 1,000 locations where the company has offices, an internal email to employees, reviewed by Mint, said.

Jio is the only company with 2,300 megahertz (MHz) spectrum, needed to offer the time duplex-long term evolution (TD-LTE) 4G-based communications services, across all 22 telecom circles in the country. The company also has 800 MHz and 1,800 Mhz spectrum in many parts of the country, enabling the company to also offer the frequency duplex (FD-LTE) version of 4G technology, as well as 2G voice services.

Jio is now expected to be the fourth telco in the country to commercially offer 4G-based services, as Idea Cellular Ltd is expected to roll out its services by March, while Bharti Airtel Ltd and Vodafone India Ltd have already started services.

A 14 December report from investment banking firm Credit Suisse, which surveyed Jio’s network in Mumbai, found that the network was not just on par with incumbent telcos, it was better in some places.

“Even while travelling at high speed on a highway, the call quality was good without any drops. Handset availability is limited in the beta phase with only 20 models recommended for full VoLTE (an acronym for Voice over LTE) functionality (starting $130). We suspect the list will expand soon," said the report, authored by Sunil Tirumalai and Chunky Shah, telecom analysts with Credit Suisse.

“Overall, our takeaway is that the Jio network is turning out to be as strong a threat to incumbents as we had feared. Next focus will be on pricing and marketing execution. We see the market being surprised negatively on telco stocks," the report added.

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