Outlook Business
Reliance Jio Telecom InfotelBroadband BhartiAirtel Vodafone Image Credit: Outlook Business
Reliance Jio Telecom InfotelBroadband BhartiAirtel Vodafone Image Credit: Outlook Business

Who Will Be left Smiling In the Data War?

Reliance Jio with its aggressive data pricing wants to deliver a knockout punch to its leveraged rivals. But it’s still early to say winner takes it all.

Krishna Gopalan

In June 2010, a little-known internet service provider called Infotel Broadband Services emerged as the sole pan-India winner in the auction broadband wireless access (BWA) paying ₹12,850 crore for BWA spectrum in 22 circles. It was an auction that Vodafone walked away from citing high prices, Idea didn’t win a single bid and Bharti Airtel won just in four circles. Hours later, on the same day, Infotel announced that Reliance had picked up a 95% stake in the company. And just like that, in one swift move that clearly caught the industry on the wrong foot, Mukesh Ambani was back in the telecom game.

Soon after the acquisition, in one of the brainstorming sessions where he and his A-team were drawing up the blueprint for the telecom business, one of the team members asked, “If we can create a petroleum business out of pipes, why can’t we do that with telecom?” In fact, the brand name Jio is said to have evolved from the mirror image of oil. The idea was to push data through pipes makeing it easily accessible to the end consumer. Ambani knew there e was very little juice left in voice with tariffs at an all-time low and demand turning inelastic. But a high-quality data offering could be a potential game changer. 

That’s how Jio began its journey six years ago to turn the telecom industry on its head yet again. By ma


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