Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Mukesh Ambani bets big on AI, Jio AirFiber service launch next month: Reliance AGM

Jio's 5G pan-India coverage complete by December; analysts give thumbs up for rollout plan

Salil Panchal
Published: Aug 28, 2023 04:45:26 PM IST
Updated: Aug 28, 2023 06:36:47 PM IST

Mukesh Ambani bets big on AI, Jio AirFiber service launch next month: Reliance AGMReliance is now using its own 5G stack to become the first operator in the world to launch commercial services on millimetre-wave spectrum, using Standalone 5G Image: Ashish Vaishnav/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Reliance Industries Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani, on Monday, shared details of the pan-India expansion of 5G technology of digital services business Jio at the company’s 46th annual general meeting, held virtually. In nine months since the 5G announcements last October, Jio 5G is already present in over 96 percent of the census towns of India.

Reliance Jio will launch its AirFiber service—the fixed wireless broadband offering—on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi on September 19, next month.

“Through optical fibre, we can currently connect around 15,000 premises daily. But with JioAirFiber, we can supercharge this expansion with up to 150,000 connections per day which is a 10-fold increase, expanding our addressable market over the next three years to over 200 million high-paying homes and premises,” he added.

Ambani, India’s richest man, with a net worth of $95.8 billion, said Jio was “on track to cover the entire country by December this year, making Jio 5G the fastest-ever 5G rollout of this scale anywhere in the world.” Jio, India’s largest telecom player by subscribers, now has a customer base of 450 million subscribers, reflecting a year-on-year revenue growth of over 20 percent. Of these 50 million are 5G customers. Average per-user data consumption on Jio’s network is now over 25 GB every month.

Reliance is now using its own 5G stack to become the first operator in the world to launch commercial services on millimetre-wave spectrum, using Standalone 5G, Ambani told shareholders. “This high-capacity, low-latency layer will significantly enhance private 5G, home broadband, and enterprise use cases,” he added.

The in-house developed 5G stack aligns with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Atmanirbhar (self-reliance) vision. Ambani said it has now “become one of the largest filers of global patents from India for digital technologies, affirming our transformation from a telecom operator to a technology company. Therefore, in the coming years, I can see Jio leveraging our Made-in-India tech stack to drive value creation and revenue growth, both at home and abroad.”

Reliance shares were trading at Rs 2,436.9 at the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), down 1.27 percent during Ambani’s speech at the AGM. Ambani also set the succession plan into motion. The company, through an official press statement, announced Monday the appointment of Isha Ambani, Akash Ambani, and Anant Ambani as non-executive directors to the board of Reliance Industries (RIL). [Disclaimer: Reliance Industries is the owner of the Network18 group, which publishes Forbes India].

Ambani said that Jio Fiber, the optical fibre-based home broadband service, has now 10 million subscribers, each of whom consumes averagely over 280 GB of data per month, which is over 10 times higher than our per-capita mobile data consumption. Today, Jio’s optical fibre infrastructure spans over 1.5 million km across India.

Also watch: Jio or Airtel: Who will win the race to 5G in India?

While talking about the expansion of their broadband business and scope, Ambani said there was one more “exciting frontier” of growth for Jio, in the form of AI. “Within the RIL Group, we are rapidly augmenting our talent pool and capabilities to swiftly assimilate the latest global innovations in artificial intelligence (AI), especially the recent advances in Generative AI. Looking ahead, Jio Platforms wants to lead the effort in developing India-specific AI models and AI-powered solutions across domains, thereby delivering the benefit of AI to Indian citizens, businesses and government alike,” Ambani said.

Analysts Forbes India spoke to continue to remain bullish about the expansion plans of Reliance Jio going ahead. Jayesh Bhanushali, lead—research at IIFL Securities said Jio was on a “strong foot holding”. Previously, Jio had maintained that it aspires to connect 50mn homes through its FTTH network. But thanks to 5G FWA (Jio AirFiber), this target has been extended to 200 mln. “Considering the rapid 5G rollout in 2HFY23, Rs258 billion cash capex ex-spectrum in FY23 was quite low (FY22 cash capex was Rs228 billion). This was also accompanied by Rs174 billion increase in capex creditors to Rs259 billion. We expect this to remain elevated in the near term, as Jio completes its pan-India 5G footprint,” he tells Forbes India.

Santosh Sinha and Inaara Bardai of Emkay Global Financial Services say they remain in favour of Jio and rival Airtel, compared to Vodafone Idea, in the 5G rollout plans and gaining of subscriber’s market share. “Reliance Jio has leadership in 5G rollout, with around 80 percent share of the overall industry’s base transceiver stations (BTS) deployment,” they say.