India’s richest man is offering free TVs with his new internet service
INDIA — India’s richest man is making a new push to dominate the country’s fast-growing internet user base — this time by offering high-definition TVs to new broadband customers.
Reliance Jio, the mobile network owned by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, will give away free 4K televisions with some of its new plans. The TVs, available to customers who buy annual subscriptions starting from 15,588 rupees ($217), will also come with streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
The new broadband network, called JioFiber, will also offer cheaper plans starting from 699 rupees ($10) a month. It launched in 1,600 Indian cities on Thursday.
“With JioFiber, Jio continues to deliver on its promise of connecting the unconnected while bringing about transformational changes to Indian homes,” the company said in a statement.
Ambani inherited most of the Reliance Industries corporate empire his father created. It began as a textile business but has grown into one of India’s biggest conglomerates spanning energy, retail and telecoms. Ambani and his younger brother Anil divided up the empire after a bitter succession battle following their father’s death in 2002. Reliance Industries is now worth about $108 billion.
This is not the first freebie Ambani has given out in an effort to become the leading provider of internet access in India. Jio burst onto India’s telecom scene three years ago with an eye-popping offer — new users of the network got six months of free 4G mobile data. The move sparked a rush of mobile signups for Jio and triggered a price war that forced big rivals to merge and even drove Ambani’s younger brother out of business.
The price of 1 gigabyte of mobile data plunged from 206 rupees ($3) in 2016 to 12 rupees (17 cents) in 2018 as a result, allowing hundreds of millions of Indians to experience the internet for the first time.
But there are still more Indians offline than online, with close to 700 million people yet to gain internet access. Jio currently has more than 340 million users, and is the second-biggest telecom operator behind Vodafone-Idea.
Jio’s latest internet plans may be out of reach for most of them, however, given the average Indian earns less than $2,000 a year, according to the most recent International Labor Organization data. But it will give Ambani access to millions of Indian households and a tighter grip on the country’s internet boom.