Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Jio to offer free phone services

Reliance-Jio-logoBillionaire Mukesh Ambani has announced that his Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. unit will offer mobile phone calls for free.

Jio’s service will debut Sept 5, and will be free until December, after which the company will charge subscribers just Rs.149 a month for data.

Mr Ambani announced this at the annual general meeting of his Reliance Industries Ltd flagship. Jio will also not charge for roaming calls within India.

The announcement triggered declines in rivals’ shares, paring $1.8 billion off the market value of Bharti Airtel Ltd. and Idea Cellular Ltd. The carriers including Vodafone Group Plc’s unlisted Indian unit have been bracing for months for the entry of Jio as a new competitor.

Operators including Airtel have already cut tariffs for data plans by 67 percent and added fourth generation or 4G services in an effort to prevent customers from defecting to Jio. Airtel said they welcome Jio’s entry to the digital world and wish them the very best. They also welcomed Jio’s call to leading operators to work together.

Ambani’s mobile service, part of Reliances’ plan to diversify from the oil and petrochemicals that comprised some 98 percent profit last year, has been undergoing testing for at least 9 months with a limited number of users.

India is the world’s largest mobile services market after China. Mr Ambani’s new offer will no doubt stir up minds and markets all over the world.