23:17 GMT28 November 2020
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    Mukesh Ambani, a 63-year-old multi-billionaire, has attracted over $15 billion in investments from foreign firms in his oil-to-telecom conglomerate Reliance Industries in the past several months. His telecom venture Jio has captured market share from other mobile providers with its hyper-competitive pricing.

    India is accelerating efforts to roll out its 5G ecosystem by 2021, and Ambani’s Jio is planning to capitalise on its brand reputation for affordable pricing to launch 5G-enabled JioPhones which will cost only $68 (INR 5,000), Press Trust of India reported on Monday, citing anonymous “company officials”.

    The reported project aims to further reduce the prices of these devices to between $34 and $40 (INR 2,500- INR 3,000) once production scales up.

    If the roll out of Jio’s 5G-enabled phones actually reaches a critical level, it has the potential to disrupt India’s massive phone market – where presently, the cheapest 5G-enabled devices cost at least $340 (INR 25,000). 

    Although the company has not officially confirmed or denied the news as yet, cheap Jio 5G phones would not really be a surprise for Indians.

    Earlier, in around 2017, Jio became the first brand to provide 4G-supporting mobile phones called JioPhones in India -- totally free of cost for consumers who were just required to pay a refundable deposit of $20 (INR 1,500).

    Offering services for cut-rate prices has been Jio’s business strategy ever since it launched in 2015. To market the brand, Ambani offered free SIM cards and free high-speed 4G internet to all consumers for the first three months, along with free unlimited calling and messages.

    On 18 July, Ambani, speaking to commemorate 25 years of mobile telephony in India, revealed that the country still has 300 million mobile subscribers trapped in the 2G era. 

    Already one of the world’s ten-richest-people, Ambani had stated that the necessary policy steps should be taken with utmost urgency to make 2G a "part of history”.

    Amid the ongoing India-China border tensions, India is limiting its dependency and trust towards Chinese equipment players like Huawei and ZTE to support the 5G ecosystem in the country, fearing compromises on national security and the data of over 1.37 billion Indians.

    Jio was named one of the world’s “cleanest telco” companies by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for not having an association with Chinese brands, and Ambani is also reportedly working on developing an independent 5G system. 

    The telco, which recently sold stakes to Google and Facebook for billions of dollars as of 31 December 2019, is the largest mobile network operator in India and the third largest mobile network operator in the world, with over 387.5 million subscribers.

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