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Two Years Ago, India Lacked Fast, Cheap Internet – One Billionaire Changed That (wsj.com)
186 points by brkumar 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 138 comments

I live in USA but I am of Indian origin. My parents' apartment in India now has Fiber Internet with 80Mbps at 1000INR (15USD)/month. On my recent travel (Aug 2018), I had Jio and was working remotely. It is so cheap to get Jio. I had 0 issues and I was praising the Internet situation in India for the first time in the last decade. Seriously, good changes in Internet situation.

The top challenges for me right now to move back there are 1. Rampant corruption in state government offices (especially with land registrations, legal heir certificates) 2. Extreme levels of sanitation/drainage issues even in metros 3. Personal indiscipline of the people. There is now some transparency because of digital transformation/e-governance. I think in a decade, (1) and (2) will be addressed. It will take miracles to fix (3). Jio pretty much stepped up the competition and other providers are fighting hard to give good speeds. I am happy about indirect benefits of technology.

Jio has enabled a digital revolution, just like Reliance Infocomm did by making all incoming calls free back in 2005 I think.

Jio has also made sure that my youtube homepage is filled with soft porn. It is an absolute scourge.

WhatsApp rumour mongering has increased a lot with lynchings happening based on the fact that law and order can’t keep up pace with technology.

I also see that lots of unemployed people now are just engrossed in WhatsApp videos nearly all day. It should have made job searching easier, but wages are depressed to such a degree that people just lose all hope and find solace in the mindless videos. Indirect consequences of the technology too.

Can you back up that lynching/WhatsApp with some numbers or statistics? Riots used to happen left and right in India for before 90's. A famous politician or actor died, a politician resigned or doing protest, religious demonstrations etc. Lot of the city will be closed. This situation got a lot better after economic liberalization and what followed. Is there a reversal to this trend that you are talking about?


First, regarding the tweet you posted: It ignores the recent years. There are still local maximas in that graph. Second, it only concerns riots and leaves out any other type of violence. But that will be more clear upon how the author interprets 'riots'. It is just a graph without any explanation. Third, I could not find source of the data myself, as the graph is not from a peer reviewed journal so it can be easily discarded. Fourth, tweet is from a person who serves in the current government aka it is like Sarah Sanders, a vested interest always defending the government.

Communal violence under Modi has increased, even if it is a local maxima but their rhetoric is acerbic towards minorities and it shows. Now onto the communal violence sources:-

1. http://ksr.hkspublications.org/2016/07/27/the-rising-tide-of...

2. https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/co...

3. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-natio...

WhatsApp specific lynchings:

1. https://edition.cnn.com/2018/07/16/asia/india-whatsapp-lynch...

2. https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-07-18/lynch-mob...

3. https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/india-dont-bla...

yeah blame the good internet service for people being lazy or stupid? For every lazy person who spends time just watching videos, there's someone in the village looking at how to use some pesticide or what medicine to take for a certain illness.

The net outcome is what matters and it always is positive.

I think blame lies with Youtube team, for them not able to morderate their default homepage. I distinctly remember same crappy default youtube homepage before Jio also.

Youtube can obviously curate it, but it shows habits of a large population too. Navel videos having 5M+ views... mind boggling.

> lnkmails 6 hours ago | parent | on: Two Years Ago, India Lacked Fast, Cheap Internet –...

I live in USA but I am of Indian origin. My parents' apartment in India now has Fiber Internet with 80Mbps at 1000INR (15USD)/month. On my recent travel (Aug 2018), I had Jio and was working remotely. It is so cheap to get Jio. I had 0 issues and I was praising the Internet situation in India for the first time in the last decade. Seriously, good changes in Internet situation. The top challenges for me right now to move back there are 1. Rampant corruption in state government offices (especially with land registrations, legal heir certificates) 2. Extreme levels of sanitation/drainage issues even in metros 3. Personal indiscipline of the people. There is now some transparency because of digital transformation/e-governance. I think in a decade, (1) and (2) will be addressed. It will take miracles to fix

Great points.

About 1: What you see is actually a massive improvement from last decade. National level corruption is so low (low, not gone completely) as compared to last year, its incredibly liberating

About 2: Again, so much better than last decade. You can ask your parents if they feel India has changed way beyond what they've lived through. Especially in Tier 1 cities which are almost western but with Indian tinge

About 3: I think that is just the way of life in India. This will not go away soon. Come to think of it, I don't think it needs to. This is part of culture and the indiscipline allows for innovative folks to capitalize and make money with improved efficiencies in Jugaad

I'm on Jio and paying $5 for 84 days. I get

1. Free voice calls

2. 100 SMS/ day

3. 1.5GB High speed data/ day (20+ MBPS)- Post which unlimited @ 64 Kbps

4. Subscription to Jio apps like Music/ Movies/ News

The page shows pricing at $5.7, everyone I know has always received a discount voucher for Rs 50. https://www.jio.com/en-in/4g-plans

Had to re-read to see 1.5 GB per day. Wow. I used to think we had it good in Austria (10GB for €10 per month). But that is fantastic.

You can get a 5GB/day plan for INR 799 (~$11) per month. That's more data than most will use in a single day.

That's not all - you also get free access to Jio's music service, movie library, streaming TV, and cloud storage.

>>That's more data than most will use in a single day.

Not to take away anything from your point.

But I see plenty of cab drivers watch movies, youtube and use other services like Google maps.

But there are other inspiring stories. A few months back I saw a video of street flute seller who learned to play the flute through the internet. Here is one story of a Coolie who prepared for civil services exams using internet: https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/08051...

You will see plenty of stories where people are using internet to do something of value.

In the UK I have do all that on a a VDSL connection capped to 120GB per month and at four times the price.

Why did you choose a capped VDSL connection, then? Unlike the US, we have real uncapped plans. As for price... go visit India and see if you can work out why people might not be able to pay as much for services, and why it might be possible to provide those services cheaper. Hint - people don’t get paid as much.

That's only part of the story, India greatly benefits from population density in urban areas.

In Europe, the wired broadbands are cheap and fast. In India, there is no hope for cheap and fast wired broadband due to poor planning. Hence the craze for 4G. Also, the rates are marginal. For a long time, the rates induced loss for companies.

That's incorrect. Jio has already come out with high speed wired broadband called JioGigaFiber: https://jiofiber.co.in/. Poles have been erected in my locality and pretty much the entire city. It's way cheaper than the current broadband I'm using (Hathway) and I'll be shifting to it once it launches. Currently it's being rolled out in phases across the country: https://www.mysmartprice.com/gear/2018/09/06/jio-gigafiber-c...

"JIO GIGA FIBER will be the largest greenfield fixed-line broadband rollout anywhere in the world, with rollout happening in 1,100 cities of India simultaneously"

Jio already has more than 70k+ km of optical fibre layed out to connect all Major city, and more is being layed out per day. They plan to provide 100GB free per month + additional at little cost ( about 5$ per 1000GB ) with provide service such as streaming TV , security systems, landline phone at no extra cost. Installation charges up to your home for optical fibre at about 70 USD.

Also living in austria, paying on €7 for my 10GB per MONTH.

In Mexico with a Telcel pre-paid plan the max I can get is 5GB/month for 500 pesos (around $25 USD).

In India last year it was difficult as a foreigner to get Jio, so went with a couple of other providers (Airtel and Vodophone) -- not expensive at all, but coverage was dicey up in Rishikesh where I was staying.

France was the best wrt to price/data ratio, something like 20 Euros per month with Orange got me 40GB, that was really nice to have away from any big cities (Capbreton).

I got more in Iran than in Germany as well but in Germany I can use it while in Iran it was flaky censored and slow.

I am green with envy. South Africa, data is so expensive I literally only check my WhatsApp messages when using cellular networks. Everything else I do when I connect to ADSL backed WiFi connection. Here are two deals being advertised on Vodacom (vodafone), the largest cellular network in SA. Per month. (Yes it is MB not GB).

    $35 400 Minutes 900MB 400 SMSs
    $50 600 Minutes 1200MB 600 SMSs
Note: Rand has dropped from US$1 = 13 to 15 in the last day. I divided ZAR price by 14.


You can get an LTE data-only SIM capped to 1GB for $5/mo (ZAR 67) from Axxess[1]. Granted - it's not unlimited and doesn't include calls and SMS, but it's much better deal than Vodacom - for data.

1. https://www.axxess.co.za/mobile/data

The same Vodafone forced to change all their plan to match that to Jio. I'm using same 5$ for 2GB per day, 84 day plan that Jio provide on Vodafone.

Airtel has similar plans.

Ultimately this is game of who runs out of capital first. Jio has a debt of >1,25,000 crore as of now. Airtel has plenty of cash reserves which it is burning to sustain through this.

Data is still not cheap. Its being subsidized. For how long, no one knows. Until Airtel or Jio run out of cash, or think they must stop bankrupting themselves in a price war which no one can win.

Another important thing is Mukesh Ambani has plans for e-commerce. So I guess he is playing a big game on that end too.

Consumers are benefitting though.

Bonus statistic: Jio alone is serving more data than all US networks combined.

Are you f@cking kidding me? There is literally no excuse for companies to charge us the way they do in the west at this point.

Leaving aside the fact that Jio seems to be an Uber-like play and the prices aren’t sustainable, there are several other problems with your argument. In the west, the cost of building and maintaining telecom networks is dominated by labor costs. Jio is paying Indian wages to lay and splice backhaul fiber, or to fix a downed line, not US or German wages. And even in the US or Germany, this isn’t minimum wage work—it requires skilled, often unionized labor. Another big expensive for a cellular provider is tower leases. Jio is paying for leases based on Indian property prices. Jio is paying Indian wages for network operations engineers. Etc. All else being equal, the cellular equipment will cost the same, but that’s not equal either. Jio is deploying LTE a decade into its lifecycle. Western carriers deployed LTE when it came out, when equipment was far more expensive, and now are moving onto 5G. It’s clear Jio is also skimping on backhaul capacity, which is another huge expense.

Telecom infrastructure is like any other infrastructure—vastly more expensive to build in the west, and in the US in particular. New Dehli’s new subway sections were built for about $70 million per km. Typical in Europe is $200-500 million. New York spent $1.7 billion per km on its newest subway sections.

>Jio is paying Indian wages to lay and splice backhaul fiber,

Dude. Charter Communications posted 10 billion dollars net income for 2017. They have under 100,000 employees. They could raise each of their employees' wages by $100K and still have money left over at the end of the year. It ain't the wages.

There's several things wrong with that statement.

1) Charter didn't really make $10 billion in profit last year. That figure is the result of a one-time accounting change: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/charter-announces-f.... This happened to many companies last year--when the corporate tax rate was lowered, they had to re-valuate any tax assets or liabilities using the new rate: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/with-deferred-liabilities-.... That resulted in big one-time gains or losses depending on whether the company had deferred tax assets or deferred tax liabilities. Microsoft booked a $6.3 billion loss in Q2 of this year for similar reasons. That doesn't mean Microsoft is losing money hand over fist!

2) It's more useful to look at Charter's income from operations (page 31 of their 2017 annual report: http://ir.charter.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=112298&p=irol-reportsa...). That has ranged from $3 to 4 billion over the last few years on about $40 billion in revenue. That means that if Charter merely tried to break even, it could lower customer prices by about 10%.

3) Also useful is the breakdown of expenses, which starts at page 37 of the annual report. Out of $40 billion in revenues, $26 billion was spent on operating expenses. Of that, $10.6 billion is the cost of buying video programming, while the rest is maintenance, support, overhead, etc. That $15 billion-ish is dominated by labor costs. Then there is another $10 billion in depreciation, which is the annual decrease in the value of the actual network. The cost of building the network is not counted as an expense, but is instead booked as a capital asset. Each year, the accounting of income accounts for the decreasing value of that asset. That depreciation also reflects primarily labor costs (i.e. the labor costs incurred in building the asset).

4) Much of the plant maintenance and construction is handled by contractors, who wouldn't be counted in the 100,000 employees.

>>All else being equal, the cellular equipment will cost the same

I'm not sure where I read this. But I remember reading several years back, Airtel doesn't buy telecom equipment, it actually leases it, and pays for it as it goes. Which is why the prices were so low even for a new tech rollout like 4G.

Not sure if Jio has the same model.

>>Telecom infrastructure is like any other infrastructure—vastly more expensive to build in the west

Apart from land acquisition costs. India doesn't buy TBMs(Tunnel Boring Machines), from what I know. TBM's are a very capital expensive investment. But pace of building things is very slow in India compared to any such project in the west.

Having said that India does do frugal engineering well.

Not sure where you got such wrong information by tunnel boring machines. They are widely used and are cheap (don't believe 1 billion$ per mile some businessman sells you). Both Delhi and Mumbai have used tunnel boring machines. Indian metro cost 30-100 million dollars per mile based on property prices, number of stations, and ratio of underground/overground. Don't know the breakdown, but have read that the major costs are stations. Tbm themselves are expendable. That is why Delhi and Mumbai ordered 19 and 17 tbm for a single phase and a single line.



>>Not sure where you got such wrong information by tunnel boring machines.

I'm not saying they don't use it. I'm saying they don't buy it. They lease it. Bangalore Metro's snail pace is largely due to inability to afford renting more TBM's.

TBM's are not cheap. Not for the budget projects like Bangalore(and other cities get) metro gets. Delhi and Mumbai are a different deal, as government spends money through a fire hose there. In fact South India pays most of the taxes and gets little in return, compared to North, which gets >1 rupee for every rupee it contributes to the exchequer.

South Indian cities are not that lucky.

One of the feedbacks that went into further phases for Bangalore Metro was to get more TBMs. They only used like 4 for the first phase, and even there one broke down and it took like months to get it fixed.

Airtel did used to buy equipment indirectly, by paying dollars per capacity (erlang model) and letting the vendor figure out what that involved regarding equipment. But they moved away from this a few years ago to a more traditional model of just buying equipment, along with making some other major changes to the way they buy IT services as well.

I used to do some work at Airtel but I cross checked what I posted here against publicly available information, for example from https://www.zdnet.com/article/airtel-chops-ibm-contract-in-h...

Labor costs sound like a weak excuse. Sure I don't expect the same price, but with 1.5gb/day( which realistically speaking is the only thing that matters) I'm paying 180 times more per gb of data.

Until you realize what labor costs are (or deployment density is) in the West compared to those countries?

Also, price is a function of what the return value and need to have capital to invest with, not just the minimum cost to operate once things are set in place.

In Russia for ~$7:

- Unlimited high speed data (4g)

- 500 sms per month

- 500 minutes

And you can probably get a better deal as well.

We don't uave unlimited mobile data in Germany.

I think I pay 20€ for 3GB per month.

That sounds like you have a O2 Boost contract which is theoretically "unlimited" you just get throttled to ~60kbits after the cap

I have Fyve.

Yes, it's just that I don't get nearlY 60kbits when it's throttled

Doesnt aldi sell unlimited sims for like 13 euro? I've lived in Hamburg now for 7 months but still use Google Fi since its also very cheap and has yet to not work in any country I go to. But I always thought you could get something SUPER cheap in Aldi.

They have a starter set for 13€ that includes sim card and 10€ credit.

They also have an XL flat rate which includes 5,5GB LTE that costs 15€/month. So you pay like 18€ in the first month and then 15€ in the following months.

This isn't bad, but I don't get O² net where I live, so I can only use Vodafone based offerings.

For 80$ per month in Canada: - Unlimited call + texts - 6GB per month

And this is considered a good deal

> And this is considered a good deal

No it's not. There are tons of cheaper plans out there from cheaper carriers like Public Mobile/Koodo/Fido and etc. You just have to look up for them. I used to pay 40 for 4GB/month and now I am at 12GB/month for 55. Still not cheap, but not as bad as what you are saying.

I used to live near vancouver area, Fido/Koodo don't have good coverage, my university in Burnaby had 0 coverage for these networks.

Practically every product/service I can think of is more expensive here than other countries, namely the U.S. Yet the wages aren't exactly higher than other developed countries like the U.S. I don't really get it.

fewer people is probably the issue, fewer people to spread the cost of R&D or infrastructure onto = higher cost per person. Just a guess though.

I found tablet data plans as the only worth while option.

3GB/month for 15$

In Kenya on Airtel, I pay $10 per month for 6gb data, 400 minutes and 2000 SMS. The unused balance gets rolled over into the next month. Oh, and there are no tethering limits. For home use, I pay $50 for unlimited 25mbit fibre to the home

Great but let's see how the pricing holds...he's well funded to keep killing the competition for quite a while. Then, you'll see his real intentions

The real intention is to earn by selling data centre bandwidth to internet applications provider such as Google and Facebook when India government make it compulsory for them to have indian user data inside Indian border, this is the direction where both Jio and government are slowly moving, if you read recent news on indian news sites and read between the line.

I heard the service is cheap but quality is bad?

They forced all provider to match the price. That is the real benefit for someone who didn't wanted to change.

100$ for 200GB 4g plan on China Mobile Pakistan

Whoa! That's expensive.

One of the reason for India's economic success in the digital age is awesome and affordable telecommunications infrastructure.

You can't run a good start up ecosystem, or even a decent economic ecosystem without these things these days.

Jio is cheaper per Gigabyte, but they wouldn't let you spend all your quota in a day. That's the trick

But jio is also cheaper by a factor of 10-20. It is unbelievable pricing, they cannot be subsidizing it by 90%, and they probably don't have 90% margin initially, after including infrastructure costs.

Factor of 10???

China mobile Pakistan - 200 Gb package for $65

Jio - ~30 gb for $6 a month, you can't humanly consume exactly 1.5 Gb per day.

200 : 65 = ~3.1

30 : 6 = ~5

Best case scenario, 45 : 6 = 7.5

So it is twice as cheap, but not by a factor of 10

OP said $5 for 84 days though, not a month.

I missed that, than ...it's true.

I'm shedding bitter tears.

>you can't humanly consume exactly 1.5 Gb per day.

Why not? Stream at high def for a few hours and you should be done.

They don't have to :)

Seriously, you need to watch like a HD movie everyday to exhaust that kind of quota. Unless you are flush with money and entirely jobless, you won't exactly be spending hours of your time everyday doing this.

But cheap plans let you use things like Google Maps, Collaborate over WhatsApp, Send recieve/picture videos etc. That kind of stuff is important for productivity for an economy. Especially for everyday business people this works wonders.

Update, the price went down recently.

You can get it for around $65 now https://www.zong.com.pk/internet/mobile-broadband/mbb-plans

Not long ago they are selling $1.5 for 100MB in China.

China Mobile Pakistan != China Mobile from PRC

About 5 months or so ago, one of my cousins called me ( video call on whatsapp ) from one of the snow covered mountains in the himalayan range. I know its not the top of mount everest and the place does see a decent tourist traffic, but still I was surprised by the fact that he could do a clear video call from that location. THIS, compared to me, sitting on a train ( not underground! ) just 10 miles away from London and no internet ( or network ) feels very very strange.

That is when I really understood how gamechanging Jio is to India. There is nothing even closely comparable to it anywhere in UK atleast and I believe the same is true for most developed countries.

This reminds me of how a friend from SF texted me saying he missed 4G speeds in India. I genuinely thought he was being sarcastic at first.

Another thing hard to ignore is the cost disparity between data in India and the developed nations; data in India is cheaper by at least a few times.

Have to disagree. Viettel (Vietnam) does offer 1GB a day for a monthly cost of $7. I have 3 bars minimum with LTE/4G on mountains (remote ones even) and islands.

We should be very thankful with current Net Neutrality situation in India thanks to Facebook's ill conceived plan of Free Basics which led to Strict Net Neutrality Laws in India. This had prevented Platform lock for Jio's chat , movies etc platforms, which ironically is very beneficial to FB Messenger and Whatspp's growth. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_neutrality_in_India

Yes, he is the game changer when it comes to bringing fast and cheap internet in India (along with unlimited calls, data, 'national roaming' etc.). Unlike some countries like US, national roaming wasn't really free in India until Jio happened. So much that it forced every other telecom company in India to have similar plans (at least close to that) even if that meant huge downfall in their profit. Such is the power of Mukesh Ambani.

But, if someone is thinking the reason behind it is his philanthropy or something, forget about it. He's the biggest businessman in India, and just wants to capture all the market and all of its 'data'. Ambani wants his company to become India's Google.

That being said, thanks to him, literally (almost) everyone in India is on the internet these days.

I have to also add, that the same parent company (Reliance) was also responsible for the mobile phone explosion[1][2] in India in 2002-03, at the very same price point. I can still remember the long queues in my hometown (pretty distant 2nd tier city) to get a hand on the Rs. 500 phone on the days before. They essentially put a mobile phone on every Indian's hands, and forced entire market prices to come down. Before that, the average handheld mobile was way out of economic reach for most Indians.

Reliance has gone through a lot of restructuring, family issues and some shady flak, but they have been the major drivers of both mobile and internet revolution in India. Interestingly, both at the same price point then (2003) and now: INR500 (USD7 at today's rates).

1: http://archives.digitaltoday.in/indiatoday/20030721/business...

2: https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/economy/story/20040105-in...

Hi Piyush. Great points but would like to say that not even half of India has access to internet just yet. While Jio is certainly expediting this growth, we have a long way to go.

You can find my reference here: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/...

"500 Million by June 2018".

Even though that is still less than half of India's population, it is a bit misleading to put it that way because 500 million internet users is a HUGE number specially for a country like India where GDP Per capita is still very low compared to other similar economies. So I would say that is AWESOME. Long way to go for other things but Indians are way forward when it comes to Telecom/Internet in my opinion

One reason could be lack of very cheap Smartphones. I mean like good sub 1000 rupees phones.

India has a great Android phone ecosystem and the sub 10,000 rupee phones are really good. But 10,000 rupees is still quite a bit of cash for many people.

In my personal experience, poor population actually doesn't care about 'smartphone', though they care about 'Whatsapp'. Thankfully, Jio is bringing around 2000 INR (~28 USD) feature phones too, that will still run Whatsapp and Facebook etc.

The real intention is to earn by selling data centre bandwidth to internet applications provider such as Google and Facebook when India government make it compulsory for them to have indian user data inside Indian border, this is the direction where both Jio and government are slowly moving, if you read recent news on indian news sites and read between the line.

However, there are downsides to this. To compete with Jio. All the carriers have massively decreased the prices to match Jio. This has increased congestion in all metro areas.

Things don't work when I most need it. I cannot book an Uber in the middle of the city. The uber drivers struggle to get the navigation right. I sometimes hear "All channels occupied" error when I'm calling. I never knew such an error existed.

I had tried Jio in the initial days. The coverage was spotty at best. No one I know use Jio as a primary connection. Most people use a dual SIM phone, which I don't have.

Even if the access of internet has increased, the overall quality of cell service has decreased at lot, no matter what the carrier.

Edit: Bypass the paywall - http://facebook.com/l.php?u=https://www.wsj.com/articles/two...

This is true for cities but the speed is mostly better than any other provider. Besides people have broadband in cities so most of the time its not the issue. If you go through towns of India the speed is very high on this network like around 20+ Mbps.

How do you really define a primary connection? Nowadays, most people I know, call from their Jio SIM and I can them on the same number. I believe their previous number is just there for legacy reasons. Most of the communication now happens over JIO. I am myself looking to switch my 10-year-old number from Airtel to Jio, and I have a single sim iPhone.

That caused increase in non synchronous communication such as WhatsApp.

That's the sad truth about unlimited plans. You can't beat physics. Sadly most people don't understand this and think ISPs are being greedy.

People aren’t the ones claiming the plan is unlimited, whatever that means. Are the ISPs confused?

This is the worlds largest IPv6 network. We've been tracking it for APNIC since day one. It took India to over 40% of the worlds visible IPv6 users.

> Reliance has said little publicly about Jio, and even less about the potential for wide-scale data mining in a country where consumers have not, to date, made a big deal about online privacy. But top executives are clear on the opportunity.

> “It’s called Deep Packet Inspection, and what you can do with the analytics of that is mind-boggling,” said a senior Reliance executive, referring to a practice that digs into ‘packets’ of data created by computers for efficiency, mining them for information.


This is why it very important to have HTTPS everywhere.

As a US Citizen of Indian origin, I can confirm this. For the past couple of years, whenever I travel to India, I don't even feel a difference in terms of Internet access. JIO specially has been a game changer. Indian telecommunication system is one of the best in the world and I would argue it beats mature markets like USA with its size and coverage for 1.2 billion people. Long way to go with many other basic necessities but when it comes to Internet/Telecom, I am super impressed.

From Steve Blank's recent blog post: [today’s theory is that] “massive capital infusion owns the entire market." This is yet another example.

Question is: What strategies can competitors adopt when faced with a market participant like this?

The Indian telecom industry had another major shock back in 2009, when a new firm - DoCoMo - introduced a 'Per-second' billing.

Today, Tata DoCoMo barely exists. Some competitors introduced a similar version of billing, others just waited them out.


Is DoCoMo still big in Japan? They've got an interesting history with various projects there. They were originally the ones who hosted the "mobile" side for Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal in Japan.

Connecting a Gameboy Color to a cellular phone and having it make HTTP-type requests to Nintendo servers for data, way back in 1999 or so

NTT - DoCoMo is one of the major providers here in Japan. The others being AU and Softbank. Having said that there are lots of new entrants who offer cheaper rates than the incumbents. They ride on the signal of the major players. I guess its kind of win-win for all. But the rates I pay is close to $10/GB. Unlimited rate for those who are ready to pay $50 or more per month ( not sure about the current rates. Could be a bit outdated)

The Arnold Carnegie of India. Mr Carnegie funded hundreds of public libraries around the USA in the 1800s. He was a rags to riches 19th century steel billionaire in modern valuations.I have read dozens of testimonials of how small town middle class children use their libraries to enter ivy league universities and onto fantastic careers. I am one of these people.

Andrew Carnegie would be worth US$372 billion in 2014 dollar. Yes, with a B.

Andrew Carnegie :)

How Carnegie acquired that money is a different story. Look up the Robber Barons.

THIS. For mere $6 I can have 1.5GB of data everyday for 84 days. Not to mention unlimited calls and 100 messages/day.

Edit: Also, they have free services like Cinema, TV, Music, Cloud, etc all included with that $6 plan.

It's not 'free' it's being subsidized by someone somewhere.

Almost everything that is "free" is actually subsidized, so there would be no point in even having the word "free" if subsidization disqualified things from being "free".

This highlights how far the US is lagging behind in terms of Internet access and cost. Paying 60$/month or more for mediocre speeds is common even in major urban areas, due to the lack of competition. I live in the heart of Boston and only have one ISP I can buy service from. And there is no mobile alternative that offers (truly) unlimited, fast, and affordable data.

My gut says Google is eyeing an isp play . That would be a godsend for consumers, although dont know if telecom regulators like the FCC and anti monopoly regulators a would clear such a proposal.

What is fascinating is that many Indians are discovering the mobile internet having never been on a desktop, or having never even had a land line. We are talking of 100s of millions of people here. Nearly 80% of internet access in India is via mobile.

It would be fascinating to see how their behaviour differs from those who have come to the internet via the normal route.

Besides the rates etc, what Jio has been able to do also is leapfrog straightaway to a pure LTE network, with no GSM at all, with VoLTE. Other providers have to maintain a legacy GSM network and also support LTE. They have gone from 0 to 215 million subscribers in just 2 years, which is incredible.

A lot of people have mentioned that Mukesh Ambani is doing this the second time - even the first launch had a major impact. At that time India had incredible high cellular rates, and the launch of Reliance Communications in early 2000s really changed the game for mobile connectivity in India. So this is the second time he has upset the apple cart.

Everyone is comparing Data Price in India to that of west/south. Considering it's so much cheaper in India, It's an irony that Indian's egress charges are 200% of the USA egress charges. [1]


CloudFront egress for India: $0.170/GB.[Jio gives to user : $0.044/GB under ideal daily max consumption].

CloudFront egress for USA: $0.085/GB .... This is HALF of Indian rates.


CloudFront isn't exactly the cheapest CDN. BunnyCDN is .01/US for their premium and half that for their volume service. India would only be .03/US (granted with only one datacenter in the South).

The average quota is 1.5GB/day (for the latest recharge, they provided 3gb/day). That's a lot !

Some side effects of Jio have been : 1. average media consumption per user, specifically video(youtube, netflix, amazon prime) has gone up drastically 2. voip calls(audio & video calls on whatsapp, telegram) have gone up drastically ! 3. A lot of users, especially youngsters i know, dont download content anymore, they stream it ! Its an interesting usage behaviour shift !

I think Jio's end game is content - getting Indian users to pay for content will be tricky though !(there have been very few successes - unlike the us, the average indian user doesnt like paying for digital subscription content , paid tech news and analysis site, https://the-ken.com/ is an exception)

The real intention is to earn by selling data centre bandwidth to internet applications provider such as Google and Facebook when India government make it compulsory for them to have indian user data inside Indian border, this is the direction where both Jio and government are slowly moving, if you read recent news on indian news sites and read between the line.

Jio's dominance has also forced broadband providers to up their game. Airtel used to dominate in my part of the city, offering mediocre speeds and expensive plans.

About 1.5 years ago, my broadband bill was about $30 at 16mbps capped at 80GB/month from Airtel.

Now Airtel is offering me 100mbps at ~$13 capped at 250GB/month


I'm paying $15/ month for 100mbps with FUP at 750GB/ month


I recently switched to a local internet provider. INR 850/month (~$12) for 50mbps with no download limit.

Internet in India has suddenly become really good. Made my work so much easier

I'm not a fan of Jio for multiple reasons.

Firstly, it used to insist on Aadhaar (the resident ID linked with biometrics) to provide a connection. I'm not sure if that has changed in the recent times and if it accepts other documents.

Secondly, as someone else pointed out here, Jio is an unsustainable model. While the prices charged by other telecoms/ISPs could go down a bit, what Jio is doing is creating a bloodbath where everyone sinks, including Jio. Jio already has huge debts. I don't think that bodes well for consumers, and would negatively affect how much things can improve in the coming years. This could result in a deep and long stagnation once all companies have no money and have huge debts. After all, telecom is a capital intensive business, combined with the operational expenses that are more specific to the Indian scenario (and not applicable in some developed economies) — like a competitor cutting the cables of another provider in a area and creating a mass outage, roads being dug without warning or planning to lay cables and not repaired later (sometimes resulting in fines to the company), etc.

Lastly, Jio is from Reliance, a big conglomerate that has a reputation of being unethical in many ways. [1] This may be considered as being compensated by some of the good that has been done by the company, but it still cannot be completely ignored. The 2007 Hindi movie "Guru" [2] is a fictionalized depiction of the beginnings of Reliance and about Dhirubhai Ambani (the founder).

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reliance_Industries#Scams

[2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guru_(2007_film)

Jio is huge in India. Jio is specifically targeting rural areas. Areas which would have taken years for internet cable to reach. They have strong presence by maintaining cellular signal, Jio shops etc in these areas. Maybe that is the reason why India leads in number of people who first accessed Facebook on mobile.

When vodafone bought Hutch a few years back (so they could enter the Indian market), I saw an interview with the Vodafone ceo. He made a interesting comment. He said one of the things that would come from the deal is Hutch would should Vodafone how to offer services so cheaply. At the time the average monthly spend per subscriber in india was about $2. A fraction of what it was in the UK. So India was always ahead of the developed world in terms of pricing. But Jiro has definitely taking it to another level by offering crazy amounts of data with accompanying fast speeds for a price many Indians can afford.

India is quite well known for its price sensitive consumers. Jio has recognized and tackled that exceptionally well. Only today, on its 2nd anniversary, it announced even more free offers for its subscribers.

Full article here: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/telecom/teleco...

Still there is no cheap and fast wired broadband in some areas of major cities in India. We tried multiple ISP from our area(one of the major city in India) and they all are bad. Sometimes our wifi does not work for multiple days or its too slow. Finally we decided to use only Jio mobile internet.We face the same issue at our office.

I hope Jio fiber change this situation.

Interestingly, Jio needs 4G supported phone and it won't work with 3G handset. So other (ex: airtel,vodafone etc) telecom operators still keep higher prices for 3G handset!

3g Data Mobile Recharge Plans: Rs. 298 - 28 days - 1 GB 3G Data. Thats $5 for 1GB of data with 28 day validity.

But If you look at their 4G data plan it will be completely different thanks to Jio.

The impact of Jio is enormous. I travelled to certain villages where there are no roads.. there are not even proper bus facilities but inside the “huts” folks have 4G internet and wifi hot spots and i streamed netflix. I couldn’t believe myself.

Well that billionaire raised a loan of $14 Billion from the Indian Banks to start Jio and recently he again raised additional $500 Million, such huge investments rarely recover if at all. Previous 5 quarters are showing a loss.

Jio was never profitable from start. It won't be profitable anytime soon either.

Please note this isn't first time Mukesh Ambani is dipping his feet into telecommunications. He did before too, but he lost that business to Anil Ambani.

Apparently Jio is like his dream project.

> Jio was never profitable from start. It won't be profitable anytime soon either.

I don't get this. Jio has been posting profits for a while[1].

1. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/markets/stocks/news/rel...

Its profit if you completely discount away the debt they have :) Or if you think they started at 0 investment. Or if you thinking on lines of completely discounting their initial capital 'investment' by not calling it Debt.

It is debt nevertheless.

Its like say took like a crore to start a business, and you are making like a profit of 50000 a month. Its profit, but it isn't exactly profit in an absolute sense, given you have to pay back 1 cr.

The thing about companies like Reliance is they can afford to do this. They have debt of $37 billion(https://telecom.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/cash-rich-...) and they want to raise another $3 billion.

So yes, they post profits. Based on what your definition of profit is.

It's like people gave him money to build the required infrastructure. I wonder if this is possible in other sectors.

The infrastructure he built is sure going to be used for years to come.

But then you realize he is a business man. duh.

>>I wonder if this is possible in other sectors.

It is.

Some of the ideas that has clicked in India in the recent past are things like PPP(Public private partnership), BOP(Build and operate) models. Basically you build out highways and other national infrastructure and then you recover the money from toll.

These days you can exit Bangalore in any direction, and have access to darn good highways. I typically travel to districts around Bangalore to see my relatives, and the highway infrastructure is almost on par with international standards. And this is with every single exit route from Bangalore. Karnataka in general has good infrastructure.

Even inside Bangalore, the NICE road and elevated highway reminded me of US freeways. Very clean, and high quality roads.

You have to pay toll though. It largely works. Ultimately if you have enough economic activity, things will pay for themselves.

>such huge investments rarely recover if at all

Citation needed. Most of the large businesses you see in the world today have, over their lifetime, raised much more than that in investments.

In 2016 I used to pay Rs 98 for a GB OF data. Now Airtel, after following the lead of Jio, or getting forced to, offers 1.4GB data every day for Rs 300 for 70 days

Italy here: I'm paying 10€ per unlimited calls and 60gb/months. Looks like we are cheaper than India!

That's not cheaper. Jio can give that at half the price for thrice the duration

I'm getting a Cloudflare error message from that link.

This is because you’re using cloudflare DNS.

Archive.is/fo/li blocks cloudflare DNS.

Do you know why that is?

Apparently because archive.is wants cloudflare to pass on (most of) your IP address to them for DNS resolution, and cloudflare won't play ball...


why is this article behind a wsj paywall ?

try this bookmarklet


thanks a ton ! this is so neat !

Once upon a time, the USA had fast, cheap Internet. One billionaire changed that.

What a crap title and article, which spends half its time bootlicking Mukesh Ambani and how he's so rich, when the second paragraph says:

> has shelled out $35 billion of the company’s money

I'm also tired of all these publications that brainlessly give credit for achievements to the CEO like those that suck Elon Musk off for things his engineers have done. Not that I should expect anything better than a journal named after Wall Street.

It really doesn’t bother me because he is the chairman, managing director and largest shareholder of the company in question. Leaders get credit for the things they ask their followers to do all the time. No one can actually accomplish anything significant without lots of help from other people.

Perhaps you have a valid point in there, but it's not ok to fulminate like this on HN, so can you please not? I feel like we asked you this many times before and then you fixed it, so it would be good not to backslide.


Out of topic, out of curiosity: Is one person behind this profile? Do multiple people share the login info?

During my years of HN usage, I don't remember ever seeing another username enforcing the rules, only yours.

Just me. It would feel a bit icky to have multiple persons behind the same handle.

As icebraining pointed out, sctb is the other moderator who posts publicly. https://news.ycombinator.com/posts?id=sctb.

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