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Saturday, December 04, 2021

Was waiting for LTE devices to be affordable: Reliance Jio tech head

RJio is the only operator to have 20 MHz spectrum across the country’s 22 circles and later also acquired airwaves in 1800 and 800 MHz.

By: ENS Economic Bureau | Jaipur |
Updated: August 25, 2015 10:56:40 pm
Jyotindra Thacker of Reliance Jio receiving the Technology Senator of the Year award from Anant Goenka, Express group’s Wholetime Director and Head – New Media. (Source: Express photo by Amit Chakravarty) Anant Goenka, Express group’s Wholetime Director and Head – New Media (left) with Jyotindra Thacker of Reliance Jio (Source: Express photo by Amit Chakravarty)

Reliance Jio Infocomm, the telecom arm of Reliance Industries is set to begin commercial operations from December, almost five years after it first acquired spectrum in the 2300 MHz band in mid-2010.

While analysts and industry observers have always speculated on the reasons for the delay in the roll out of commercial services, the group’s technology head, Jyotindra Thacker, has for the first time revealed that the company was waiting for the LTE devices to become more affordable for the Indian masses. However, this ended up being a boon in disguise as in the interim the government auctioned spectrum in 1800 and 800 MHz bands enabling the company to build the largest spectrum bank along with the 2300 MHz which it already had.

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In a candid conversation with Express group’s Wholetime Director and Head —New Media Anant Goenka, after receiving the Technology Senator of the year award at the recently held 13th edition of Express Technology Senate, Thacker said in 2010-11 the company had chosen the LTE technology and had expected that in about three year’s time handsets would be available in the affordable price range. However, this did not happen. In the meantime, the government auctioned spectrum in other bands and the company acquired spectrum in 1800 and 800 MHz and approached the US-based chip maker Qualcomm with its plans to launch LTE services on these bands. Since Qualcomm was also following a similar path, things moved. “Since handsets were not going to be available at the price point which is affordable to the masses of India there was no point in basically launching our business. So we thought we might as well wait for one more year,” he said, adding that this year finally everyone was talking about Rs 5,000 handsets, an affordable price point people.

“Learning lessons from Korea, Japan and the USA we knew that the only way a wireless operator can be dominant player is with a large amount of spectrum,” he said, adding that the company never thought the government would auction the spectrum so fast.

RJio is the only operator to have 20 MHz spectrum across the country’s 22 circles and later also acquired airwaves in 1800 and 800 MHz. Today the company has 1800 MHz spectrum across 18 circles and 800 Mhz in 10 circles. As a result, having spent Rs 34,000 crore in acquiring spectrum assets in the last five years RJio has the largest footprint of liberalised spectrum in the country and is suitably positioned to provide a range of voice and high-speed data services.

Talking about the bouquet of apps which the company would be unleashing with the launch of its services, Thacker said, “We did not want to just create a dump pipe for others to ride on it. So we wanted to basically create some intelligence into the network, and apps and an economy around it. Apps and bandwidth typically go together and that’s when it becomes a viable proposition for the end user also.”

In April, Rjio had launched an application — Jio Chat — which integrates chat, voice, video calling etc and within the very first few weeks it had notched up a subscriber base of over a million. On what all to expect from the company, Thacker said the company would be unleashing bandwidth first. But there will also be a plethora of devices like dongles, battery efficient mi-fi cards and tablets. “Initially, it will be Wi-Fi tablets only as LTE tablets are still not very popular.” Thacker also said that unlike other companies who claim to be good in technology but outsource in the end, Reliance would manage things in-house. “If Reliance wants to use a technology, then it is better to be doing on its own… We would love to do it first on our own and make sure it is perfected rather than let the vendor run it at our expense. If you really want to implement a technology and take value out of it, you should get your hands dirty.”

“Technology companies have to be run by technologists. So if you say that reliance is a technology company then it has to be managed by such people and in that case I think Mukesh Ambani is a good mix of technology and commercial, because he understands and goes deep into reading everything, tries to understand everything,” he added.

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