It is an ongoing rumor in the industry that Reliance Jio Infocomm is planning to launch 4G services by the end of this year and that it might be going for a big bang approach. The recent in the series of rumors is that post its acquisition of the Network 18 Group, RJio might offer mobile video either for free or at a miniscule price.
Reliance Jio is the only pan-India owner of Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) spectrum. The company also acquired 1800 MHz spectrum in 14 circles in the recently concluded auctions. As of now, only Bharti Airtel is offering 4G services in select cities.
Many believe that with the launch of high-speed networks the usage of mobile video would take off in a big way. However, there also are concerns regarding this. To begin with the experience of customers using mobile video on 3G network is far from being great. A recent survey conducted by Skyfire, a subsidiary of Opera Software, showed that nearly 56 percent of Indian video consumers on 3G networks suffer from significant stalling and re-buffering. Nearly 83 percent of the subscribers face stalling while trying to watch video. The study further reports that almost 40 percent of all video streams ran at bitrates of less than 300 kbps, which is a very low speed for video playback on mobile devices.
At the same time, studies have also pointed out that there certainly is a market for mobile video in the country. This is reflected in the findings of Cisco’s 2013 Visual Networking Index, which says that nearly 60 percent of the growth in mobile data would be coming from mobile video alone. This also implies that the stage would be reasonably set for a 4G player that could offer competively priced content to feed the hunger of subscribers ready to consume mobile video. The relative failure of 3G telcos on the mobile video front could actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise for a greenfield 4G telco like RJio. The 3G service providers seem to have created a market and raised the awareness but have failed short of capitalizing the true potential of mobile video services. A key reason for this is that often the TDM-based networks make it difficult to scale up to the new transmission needs in the wake of services like mobile video. Mostly, the telcos have only recently started to focus on network upgrades.
This is not to say that it’s going to be a cakewalk for Reliance Jio. The price of the access devices still remains a concern area. The company would need to offer reasonably priced 4G devices to capitalize on this segment. Experts believe that reasonably-priced and interoperable 4G devices are likely to be available in the market by early 2015.
The company would also have to face competition from cable TV players like Tata Sky and Dish TV. Both these companies have recently started offering television on the go, which would be in direct competition with any telco offering mobile video. Also, these would work on any smartphone while to avail RJio’s services the subscriber would need to purchase the 4G device. Dish TV recently launched its online service DishOnline, which provides TV to subscribers via Android- and iOS-based smartphones, tablets and laptops.
—Gagandeep Sodhi, Editor, Light Reading India