Reliance Jio is more than a mobile service; it’s a whole digital ecosystem with a canny focus on the aam janatha
Navi Mumbai, November 11 2016: Dhirubhai Ambani, the founder of the Reliance Group is said to have coined the catchphrase —"Roti, kapda, makaan aur Internet" (Food, clothing, shelter and Internet) -- to highlight his vision for empowering India's aam janatha with telecom technology. His son Anil, launched Reliance Communications and delivered on his father’s vision of making the cost of a phone call cheaper than sending a post card. Other large operators like Airtel also played their part to ensure that mobile tariffs in India, remained the cheapest in the world.
But the challenge remained to empower a billion-plus people with very low spending capacity, through personal communication and Internet.
Flash Forward to September 2016 and one finds the other Ambani brother, Mukesh, formally launching the brand Reliance Jio, with a daring premise: Voice calls free, no roaming charges, only pay for data consumed. This is likely to be as disruptive as the original Dhirubhai vision and for sound technical reasons: When 3G or 3rd generation mobile technology, became 4G, it tilted the balance in favour of data over voice. The latest avatar of 4G technology is 4G VoLTE or Voice over Long Term Evolution. It uses data speeds of LTE (another name for 4th generation mobile communication), to carry voice traffic on its back. A canny operator will charge for data usage and throw in voice for free—precisely what Reliance Jio plans to do.
After initial teething troubles mainly with regard to Jio voice calls landing on other networks, the service which is in its free trial period till December 31 2016, has settled down and I find I can connect from Pune with my Jio number to most other operators except BSNL Pune numbers (I connected easily to a BSNL Bangalore number). I except this too will get sorted out if enough subscribers scream at BSNL. Meanwhile a phone fueled by Jio has a host of user friendly services to offer . Together, they make a Jio connection more than just a mobile telecom service, into a combo that can drive an entire digital lifestyle. No jokes! I am able to say this, having just visited the Jio Experience Centre that Reliance has set up in its HQ in Navi Mumbai and tried out every one of the cool tools I am sharing below:
For starters, Jio will only work with a handset that is 4G VoLTE enabled. You can check at the Jio.com site for list of compatible phones or buy one of the Reliance LYF phones. Because VoLTE sends voice as a digital packet it is able to ensure crystal clear quality. Jio also throws in active noise cancelling -- clever electronics that cancels out the surrounding noise. This technology is normally found in high end headphones.
If you download an additional app from “MyJio”, you can exploit Rich Communication Services. This allows you to convert any call you are making into a video call –on the fly! You can toggle from audio to video at will. Of course, the called party also needs to install the RCS app. The app also allows you to attach a map with your current location. Imagine, I am calling a friend to say “ I am on the 2nd floor of the mall, opposite the coffee shop”, and he or she will get a live map on the screen as we speak, to follow till we meet!
Jio seems also be banking on Indian craze for Cinema and TV serials -- It has created apps --Jio Cinema, Jio TV -- where you can access hundreds of movies and serials in Marathi, Hindi, English, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Bengali, Gujarati and Punjabi – in full HD. Right now, this is free. In 2017, this will involve a subscription, though I see Reliance being quite aggressive here too.
More than the things that already come with Jio today, there are some cool services in the pipeline. I saw work in progress where the SIM fuels a tiny device that plugs into the Onboard Diagnostic Port ( ODB) of a car and turns it into a smart car – you can disable the car, if it is stolen, feed entertainment to the back seat occupants, navigate turn by turn… The same Jio SIM was shown turning any TV into a smart Internet TV. It sets up a home automation system and control entry through your front door….. Clearly the people behind Jio are working towards the future when it will live up to its name and enable users to ‘jio’, a fulsome digital life.