Ever since its launch Reliance Jio has been offering its services completely free as part of its Welcome Offer to test out the network before launching commercial operations. This offer was supposed to end on December 31, 2016, but recent reports suggest that Reliance Jio will extend the offer for even more time. Business paper Mint reported Jio’s head of Strategy and Planning as saying that it would be unfair to charge customers until Jio management is fully satisfied with the quality of service. Analysts are now suggesting that Jio will extend its Welcome Offer until March 2017; an additional three months.
Jio has called out existing operators such as Airtel, Vodafone, and Idea, for not providing enough points of interconnect – which allow users from one network to speak to users on the other networks – and its Chairman, Mukesh Ambani described the situation as “the newbie being ragged by the big boys”. It just got a green signal from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) for it’s free-calls-for-life plans, but Trai also stated that Jio’s Welcome Offer had to end on December 3.
When contacted, a Jio spokesperson said the Jio Welcome Offer or JWO “benefits of free unlimited Voice and data will be available to all subscribers up to December 31, 2016.” But, the “JWO will be available to new consumers for subscription till December 3, 2016,” the spokesperson added.
As we noted during the launch of Jio, the fine print for the tariffs included the line: Reliance Jio reserves the right to amend/ extend the special benefits for the existing customers beyond 31st December 2016, in case they are not able to get adequate experience of seamless connectivity across network due to limited interconnects.
This lines up very clearly with what Thakur said at the press conference:
We have told Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and government that customers have faced issues with regard to the quality of service due to the interconnection congestion and they have not been able to enjoy the services that they deserve and what we want to deliver to them. And till we are in a position where we can deliver the quality of service as desired by the Jio management, it will be unfair to charge the customer.
Looking at this, and at the terms Jio laid out right at the launch in September, it’s clear that it’s going to keep applying pressure on the incumbents by offering free services unless they agree to play ball and give the points of interconnect it needs from them. The question is whether Trai will allow this to happen or now – we should know more on this soon, as the company has not made any official statement on the matter for now.