NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s telecom leader Reliance Jio said on Monday it is working with Google to launch a budget 5G phone as it laid out a $25 billion plan for introducing the next-generation wireless services within two months.
Speaking at the company’s annual general meeting, Reliance Chairman Mukesh Ambani said Jio’s 5G network will be the world’s largest, launching in main cities including New Delhi and Mumbai in October before being expanded across India by December next year.
“Jio has prepared an ambitious 5G roll-out plan,” the billionaire tycoon said, adding that the phone being developed with Google would be “ultra-affordable”.
Jio throws 5G gauntlet to rivals
5G data speeds in India are expected to be about 10 times faster than those of 4G, with the network seen as vital for emerging technologies like self-driving cars and artificial intelligence.
Reliance’s 5G plans throw down the gauntlet to rivals Bharti Airtel and Vodafone-Idea in the world’s second biggest mobile market.
Airtel has said it also plans to launch its first 5G services in October, with nationwide coverage by March 2024. Vodafone Idea has yet to announce a detailed 5G rollout strategy.
Jio, India’s biggest mobile carrier with more than 420 million customers, snapped up airwaves worth $11 billion in a $19 billion 5G spectrum auction earlier this month.
Aggressive 5G strategy
The aggressive 5G strategy builds on Jio’s playbook of disrupting India’s telecoms market having sparked a price war in 2016 when it launched cheap 4G data plans and free voice services, and later a 4G smartphone costing just $81, again in partnership with Google.
Reliance said it would partner with Qualcomm to provide cloud-based 5G network solutions for businesses, and with Meta Platform Inc for its JioMart shopping integration on WhatsApp. It also announced a foray into private 5G networks.
(By Munsif Vengattil; Reporting by Munsif Vengattil in New Delhi; Editing by Aditya Kalra, Kirsten Donovan)
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