Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director, RIL

In the seven years since its launch in 2016, Reliance Jio has made giant strides in the Indian telecom market. By rapidly expanding digital infrastructure as well as 4G/5G networks, the telco has contributed immensely to India’s ever-growing digital landscape. At Reliance Industries Limited’s (RIL) 46th annual general meeting, Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director, RIL, spoke about Jio’s 5G strategy, other focus areas and future frontiers. Edited excerpts from his address…

Jio’s overall customer base has now crossed the milestone of 450 million subscribers, reflecting a year-on-year revenue growth of over 20 per cent. The per-user data consumption on Jio’s network has also surged, with the average user now consuming over 25 GB every month. This translates into a monthly data traffic of 11 billion GB, representing a year-on-year growth of 45 per cent. Jio is the operator of choice for mobile users. Our net port-ins via mobile number portability were five times that of our nearest competitor.

5G expansion

Our 5G roll-out began in October 2022. In just nine months, Jio 5G is already present in over 96 per cent of the census towns of the country. We are on track to cover the entire country by December 2023. This makes Jio 5G the fastest-ever 5G roll-out of this scale anywhere in the world.

Today, nearly 85 per cent of the total 5G cells operational in India are on Jio’s network. At our current pace, we are ad­ding one 5G cell to our network every 10 seconds, and we will have nearly 1 million 5G cells operational on our network by December 2023.

Recently, we used our own 5G stack to become the first operator in the world to launch commercial services on millimetre-wave spectrum using standalone 5G. This high-capacity, low-latency layer will significantly enhance private 5G, home broadband and enterprise use cases. We have also built our own low-power small cells to go deeper into specific pockets of high consumption, such as tourist spots and temples, in a highly energy-efficient manner.

With over 50 million 5G customers, we are already leading in 5G adoption in India. We are the only company with the capacity to smoothly transition our entire 4G customer base to 5G, with minimal additional capital expenditure. With the growing adoption of Jio 5G, we are also seeing an increasing trend of high average revenue per user, with post-paid customers choosing Jio as their preferred network.

Jio is also the only company that offers its 5G customers the complete ecosystem of connectivity, devices, support services and value-added services. Through Relian­ce Retail, we have the most expansive sales and support network for 5G devices and services across India. We have plugged all leading 5G smartphone original equipme­nt manufacturers into this network to en­sure nationwide availability and adoption of the widest range of 5G devices.

“In just nine months, Jio 5G is already present in over 96 percent of the census towns of the country. We are on track to cover the entire country by December 2023.”

Today, our 5G roll-out is powered by Jio’s own 100 per cent in-house-developed 5G stack, which perfectly aligns with our prime minister’s Atmanirbhar vision. It features advanced technologies such as standalone 5G architecture, carrier aggregation and network slicing, with advanced artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning capabilities that optimise our vast network for unparalleled quality, reliability and user experience. It is designed to se­am­lessly integrate with 4G and 5G equipment from other global vendors. Jio’s own portfolio of 5G radios range from small cells to large tower-based radios, addressing the entire spectrum of outdoor and indoor usage scenarios. Our focus on continuous innovation has positioned us to be among the first, globally, to develop 6G capabilities.

In fact, we have become one of the largest filers of global patents from India for digital technologies, affirming our tra­nsformation from a telecom operator to a technology company. Therefore, in the coming years, I can see Jio leveraging our Made-in-India tech stack to drive value creation and revenue growth, both at home and abroad.

Bridging the digital divide

Even today, 250 million feature phone users in India remain stuck in the 2G era, unable to access digital services. To eliminate this digital divide in India once and for all, we recently launched Jio Bharat, a revolutionary, ultra-affordable 4G phone. Priced at Rs 999, which is less than the price of a 2G feature phone, Jio Bharat has smartphone-like features such as live TV, streaming video and music, digital photography, and even unified payments interface payments.

“Seven years ago, Jio promised broadband connectivity to everyone, everywhere. We have delivered. Today, Jio promises AI to everyone, everywhere.”

JioFiber and JioAirFiber

JioFiber, our optical fibre-based home broadband service, has crossed 10 million subscribers despite Covid-19 disruptions. Each of its subscribers consumes, on an average, over 280 GB of data per month, which is over ten times higher than our per-capita mobile data consumption.

Today, Jio’s optical fibre infrastructure spans over 1.5 million km across India. Our extensive optical fibre presence puts us near over 200 million premises. Yet, pro­viding physical last-mile connectivity is a painstaking process in most parts of our country. This leaves millions of potential customers without home broadband due to the complexities and delays involved in extending optical fibre to their premises.

This is where JioAirFiber, our fixed-wireless broadband offering, comes in. JioAirFiber uses our pan-India 5G network and advanced wireless technologies to bypass the need for last-mile fibre. Th­rough optical fibre, we can currently connect around 15,000 premises daily. But with JioAirFiber, we can supercharge this expansion with up to 150,000 connections per day, which is a ten-fold increase, ex­panding our addressable market over the next three years to over 200 million high-paying homes and premises. JioAirFiber will launch on September 19, 2023, giving us another avenue for customer value and revenue growth in the untapped Indian home segment.

Enterprise offerings

Our connectivity offerings for large enterprises and small businesses have doubled over the past year. Today, Jio provides connectivity services to over 80 per cent of large enterprises in India.

But we are not stopping at connectivity; we are also aiming to support the full spectrum of digital needs for Indian businesses. Jio Platforms, our digital services arm, is already providing end-to-end professional and managed services for all the businesses of the RIL Group, covering diverse verticals such as telecom, retail, e-commerce, manufacturing, media and financial services.

I believe Jio Platforms is now ideally placed to offer these innovative platforms, services and managed services to businesses outside the RIL Group, both in India and abroad. This represents yet another powerful driver of growth for both Jio connectivity and Jio Platforms.

Frontiers for future growth

As I gaze ahead, I see four exciting frontiers for Jio’s growth. These are:

  • The consumer segment, powered by Jio 5G and Jio Bharat.
  • The home segment, turbo charged by Jio AirFiber.
  • The business segment, with its large un­tapped potential.
  • Jio Platforms’ opportunity for global expansion.

Collectively, these frontiers provide Jio an opportunity for multi-fold revenue and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation growth in the coming years. But there is also a fifth – and most ex­citing – frontier of growth for Jio. A global AI revolution is reshaping the world arou­nd us and, sooner than we think, intelligent applications will redefine and revolutionise industries, economies and even our daily lives. To stay globally competitive, India must harness AI for innovation, gro­wth and national prosperity. Within the RIL Group, we are rapidly augmenting our talent pool and capabilities to swiftly assimilate the latest global innovations in AI, especially the recent advances in generative AI. Looking ahead, Jio Platforms wa­nts to lead the effort in developing In­dia-specific AI models and AI-powered sol­utions across domains, thereby delivering the benefit of AI to Indian citizens, businesses and the government alike.

“Our focus on continuous innovation has positioned us to be among the first, globally, to develop 6G capabilities.”

As this sector expands, we stand committed to create up to 2,000 MW of AI-ready computing capacity, across both cloud and edge locations. We will do this while adopting sustainable practices and a greener future. Over the next five years, we plan to shift most of our energy footprint in connectivity and digital services to green energy, which is not just eco-friendly but also lower cost.

Seven years ago, Jio promised broadband connectivity to everyone, everywh­e­re. We have delivered. Today, Jio promises AI to everyone, everywhere.