India’s biggest ever 5G spectrum auction concluded with the
government receiving a record bid of Rs 1.5 lakh crore, Mukesh Ambani’s
Reliance Jio acquired nearly half of all the airwaves sold with a Rs 88,078
crore bid.

Reliance Jio was the top bidder, picking 24,740 MHz of
airwaves across five bands capable of providing speeds around 10 times faster
than 4G, lag-free connectivity, and potential of enabling billions of connected
devices to share data in real-time. Other companies among the bidders were
Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, and Adani Group.

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Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited, which operates under the
brand name Jio, is an Indian telecom company and a subsidiary of Jio Platforms
Limited. It is headquartered in Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra. Jio offers products
such as SIM cards, mobile devices, and internet dongles.

Mukesh Ambani’s son Akash Ambani was appointed the chairman
and Managing Director of the company on June 28, 2022.

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Jio operates a national LTE network with coverage across
all 22 telecom circles. Currently, it offers 4G and 4G+ services. Jio is the
only network that offers advanced 4G LTE technology on all its sites. It is
also the only network in the country which offers VoLTE technology for voice
calling on all its sites, according to Jio’s official website.

The Reliance Industries-owned firm is the widest operator
in terms of the number of base stations, with approximately 5.32 lakh 4G LTE
network base stations, which cover more than 95% of India’s population.

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Jio was soft-launched on December 27, 2015, with a beta for
partners and employees. It became publicly available on September 5, 2016.
Currently, it is the largest mobile network operator in India and the third
largest mobile network in the world with over 42.62 crore (426.2 million)

In the financial year 2021-22, Reliance Jio clocked
revenues of Rs 117,081 crore. According to Telecom Regulatory Authority of
India (TRAI), Reliance Jio has the highest market share among the wireless
service providers at 35%, while Airtel has a 31.56% market share.

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How did Jio disrupt the Indian telecom market?

Jio commercially launched its 4G services on September 5,
2016, offering free data and voice services till December 31, 2016, which was
later extended to March 31, 2017. Within the first month, it announced that it
had acquired 1.6 crore (16 million) subscribers. Subsequently, it crossed the 5
crore (50 million) mark in 83 days since its launch and the 10 crore (100
million) subscribers on February 22, 2017.

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Jio was touted as an industry disrupter for its rock-bottom
data prices and for doing away entirely with charges for domestic calls.
Tariffs were 95% lower than competitors including free voice calls and OTT

In contrast, incumbents generated a major chunk of their
revenues from voice calls running on 2G networks. After Jio’s launch, incumbent
operators had no choice but to follow suit in a bid to maintain their market

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In addition to its attractive prices, Jio’s 4G network was
technologically more sophisticated than other players in the Indian telecom
market. Its entire network and infrastructure was built from scratch with the
latest technology and leading telecom gear manufacturers.

Airtel, Vodafone, and Idea Cellular were upgrading their
existing technologies instead of investing in 4G or VoLTE since the mounting
debt incurred by the telecom companies on the spectrum auction limited their
ability to invest in core infrastructure.

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Almost six years later, the data revolution kicked off by
Jio has dramatically changed the country and consumer sweepstakes. It boosted
the growth of online start-up companies which hit unicorn status across various
sectors. The revolution also enabled consumers to change the way they shopped,
saw movies, bought insurance or food, booked holidays, or consulted a doctor.

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While it has been a dream run for businesses and consumers,
the price war started by Jio to grab market share and increase data usage has
forced some competitors to close down. In 2016, India had 10 telecom operators
and now it has only four. For the next two years, the battlefield will be 5G.