Ambani's Jio to Start Charging for Services as Rivals Cry Foul

  • Reliance Jio to offer tariff plans from April 1, Ambani says
  • Incumbent operators have taken telecom regulator to court

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. will begin charging for its services from April 1 and extended a slew of promotional offers to users as India’s newest wireless carrier attempts to retain customers.

Customers who adopt Jio before March 31 will have the option of signing up for Jio Prime at 99 rupees ($1.48), plus a monthly charge of 303 rupees, to continue using existing unlimited services for a year, Ambani said Tuesday. He also promised to match the best offers of rival carriers and add 20 percent more data.

Jio, which has crossed 100 million subscribers since it began commercial operations in September, stormed into India’s crowded mobile operator market by offering free voice calls for life and free data for a period that was extended until March 31. Rival carriers have lodged complaints against the industry regulator, saying Jio’s free services were a violation of Indian rules.

Before Jio’s entry, Bharti Airtel Ltd., Vodafone Group Plc and Idea Cellular Ltd., India’s three largest carriers, were able to increase revenue and profit, even as they borrowed heavily to pay for spectrum and infrastructure. Jio has spurred rivals to cut prices and expand their mobile broadband networks to retain customers. Vodafone and Idea said last month that they were in talks to combine their Indian businesses. If completed, the all-stock transaction would create an entity that surpasses market leader Airtel by customers.

In the quarter ended December, Idea reported its first group loss in about a decade as price cuts dented revenue. The price war has also undermined profit at Bharti, India’s largest carrier, and intensified expectations for consolidation among the country’s mobile-phone companies.

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