Nearly 50% price drop with new entrant into the world's most competitive market. Update 5/11 ET points to October for the full launch http://bit.ly/1Tac78M Mega-billionaire Mukesh Ambani has built a 4G network to 70% of India, with 90% expected by the official launch. Reliance Jio will bring in lower prices, $60 LTE phones and should be the most important telecom event of 2016. Reliance Jio is already running a large beta with employees and setting up dealers.
To fill that network, Ambani is offering one of the lowest prices in the world. He's already taken delivery on half a million SIM cards and requesting proposals for $50-75 mobiles in the tens of millions. The other big Indians telcos (Bharti, Vodafone and Idea) have responded by moving up their own 4G buildouts, which will soon take over the country. The increased investment is yet another confirmation that competition, not company profits, is the key determinant of investment. They will presumably reduce prices soon as well.
Ambani initially will concentrate on fixed wireless for broadband rather than mobile voice.
There's enormous opportunity. India has one of the worst fixed networks in the world, with only 37M landlines for over a billion people. There's plenty of cable, but cable is divided into thousands of small companies and has few broadband connections. Ever invaluable Point-Topic estimates only 17-18M lines. Brazil and Russia have less than 20% of India's population but 25M lines of broadband. (Russia has 33M+ homes passed with high-speed fiber, mostly from the basement. Russia is far ahead of the U.S. in fiber.)
The billion connection Indian market is the most competitive in the world, with as many as 12 companies in some regions. So many companies means each has too little spectrum for efficiency. Marketing costs are high. Many buy dual SIM phones to take advantage of the current best offer. NTT, Sistema, Telenor and other smaller operators are losing fortunes. Most will soon be gobbled up.
Randall Stephenson of AT&T was attracted by the world's fastest growth and made a trip to buy a company a while back. He saw a likely bloodbath and decided not to invest. That's one more datapoint that Randall and team are among the most capable in the world. Telecom gross sales are declining in most developed markets. Many Europeans have cut dividends as profits plummetted. AT&T has raised dividends every year.
Ambani is all over the society pages for his lifestyle, but when visiting California often dines at Saravana Bhavan because he likes the food. (per a mutual friend)
Reliance Jio will bring in lower prices, $60 LTE phones and should be the most important telecom event of 2016.