5G is going to roll out across India from Oct. 1 and Reliance Jio, the country’s leading mobile service operator with 413 million subscribers, will be at the forefront of it. The move could have a transformational effect.
The 5G rollout in India will happen via Jio Platforms, the digital services arm of billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries. In August, during the Reliance annual general meeting, Ambani told shareholders that the rollout would be complete by Dec. 2023 and that infrastructure investment would be INR2 trillion ($25 billion).
A majority of Indians watch streaming content on mobile devices. Fixed broadband penetration in the country is low and Reliance aims to fix this with Jio AirFiber, which uses 5G to provide fiber-quality connectivity over the air.
“We have to think and reimagine 5G for India,” Saurabh Sancheti, group CFO of Jio Platforms, said at the APOS conference in Singapore on Wednesday. Sancheti is also a nominee director on the boards of Reliance’s cable businesses, Den Networks and Hathway Cable and Datacom.
“AirFiber can actually capture hundreds of millions of homes in India, in a very fast manner,” Sancheti said. “Increasing speeds, better data consumption, increasing data consumption would give a boost to video as well. So, I think this is surely going to transform streaming as we know it in India.”
The Ambani-backed Viacom18 recently won a bid for digital rights for the lucrative Indian Premier League cricket tournament. Sancheti said that efforts are on to transform the whole sports-watching experience from what has hitherto just been a linear feed on an app.
“Imagine if you could actually stream, a live sport, using all the multiple camera angles and you can click on any of them and just start playing it. And it is truly immersive, because you can replay, rewind, watch the same shot or kick from a different angle, you can combine this along with your friends on a live camera in a small window – that gives a sense of togetherness, as if you’re watching together in a stadium,” said Sancheti. “This is something which we’re working towards, and which we believe will be very transformational.”
Sancheti said that there are lots of such ideas in the pipeline and the company is “deep into execution mode.”
Bodhi Tree Systems, a platform of James Murdoch’s Lupa Systems and former Disney president Uday Shankar, is investing $1.78 billion in Viacom18. “Our visions are aligned and the way we approach the market,” said Sancheti. “Cleary it’s great to have visionaries like them on board and change the landscape in India.”