A woman rides her scooter past advertisements of Reliance Industries' Jio telecoms unit, in Ahmedabad, India, on July 5, 2018. REUTERS/Amit Dave
New Delhi: Reliance Industries Ltd. will invest 2 trillion rupees ($25bn) to roll out its 5G services across India, its billionaire-chairman Mukesh Ambani said as he continues to expand and diversify his $220bn empire.
Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., the telecom unit of the retail-to-refining conglomerate will deploy a "standalone 5G” version that doesn’t depend on the earlier 4G network and will deliver speedier connectivity, Ambani told investors at an annual shareholder meeting on Monday.
After its launch during the Hindu festival of Diwali in October, Reliance Jio 5G is expected to provide country-wide services by December 2023, he said, adding that the service has the potential to connect 100 million homes as well as accelerate the adoption of fixed broadband services.
Ambani’s gambit on 5G comes after he emerged as the biggest buyer in an India spectrum auction earlier this year. Despite the technology yet to prove particularly profitable for other Asian wireless operators, which have invested billions of dollars, the powerful tycoon is hoping he can attract high-end users and bolster Reliance’s e-commerce and media ambitions.
"Digital freedom is the birth right of every Indian,” Ambani said. "Therefore, 5G cannot remain an exclusive serivce, available only to the privileged few, or only to those in our largest cities -- we plan to increase the Jio 5G footprint month after month.”
Reliance’s shares fell 0.8% at the close of trading on Monday, paring this year’s gain to 9.7%.
Ambani, Asia’s second-richest person, has built Reliance into India’s largest company by market value and has sought to diversify the powerhouse conglomerate beyond its fossil fuel-led businesses and toward technology and renewable energy. Reliance Jio is now India’s largest wireless operators after entering the market in 2016 and instigating a ruthless price war the cut down rival players.
Reliance’s 5G service "will connect everyone, every place and everything with the highest quality and most affordable data,” Ambani said. "It will be world’s largest and most advanced 5G network.” He didn’t share tariff details.
Ambani said the new standalone 5G service will help Reliance Jio deliver "new and powerful services like low latency, massive machine-to-machine communication, 5G voice, edge computing and network slicing, and metaverse.”
The wireless carrier also forged a collaboration with Qualcomm to develop 5G solutions for India, he said.
Ambani’s once-a-year speech to investors has over time evolved into an eagerly-awaited platform for announcing grand, new initiatives, akin to Warren Buffett’s annual letters to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders.