By Gagandeep Kaur, Wi-Fi NOW Staff Writer
India’s flagship telco Reliance Jio Infocomm says Wi-Fi is no longer just a convenient value-added service but now part of Jio’s converged mobility strategy. We asked a spokesperson for Jio’s Wi-Fi team about how and why the company continues to invest and believe in Wi-Fi as a strategic technological choice.
India’s newest and the only profitable service provider, Reliance Jio Infocomm, views Wi-Fi as a ‘partner technology’ and no longer just an additional service of convenience. This means Wi-Fi is a part of Jio’s mobility strategy together with 4G, says Jio.
“In the 2G era, Wi-Fi was an additional service to help users to get connected to higher speed internet. Now – in a converged service scenario – Wi-Fi is a partner technology to 4G. It allows us to provide high speed, stable and seamless user experience to our subscribers in indoors and in dense environments, like stadiums and events,” says a spokesman for the Jio Wi-Fi team.
Wi-Fi will be the ‘default service’ for businesses and at home
Further, the company believes that the relevance of Wi-Fi is only going to increase in the post-COVID-19 world, especially for the home Wi-Fi segment. As people are forced to stay indoors, they are increasingly using the Internet to conduct professional and personal tasks, including banking, shopping, working from home, e-learning, and more. This means that the opportunities for the wireless sector have expanded.
“We foresee key changes in home Wi-Fi where the usage pattern is going to be changed from entertainment and browsing to access cloud applications and VPN. In the post-COVID-era, Wi-Fi is going to be a default service with any connectivity requirement, and equipment (Access Points) will be part of the service,” Jio’s spokesman says.
Along with Wi-Fi being the ‘default service’ for home and business connectivity, Jio will also use the technology for offloading to provide improved indoor coverage and better voice quality, Jio says.
Wi-Fi integral to vision of high-speed, affordable broadband
Jio launched 4G services in 2016 and says it serves more than 387 million subscribers today. The operator redefined the Indian telecom industry by providing free data services for the first six months of operations. Jio was in the news recently with its parent company, Jio Platforms, receiving almost US$12.9 billion investment from several firms, including social media giant Facebook and private equity firms including Silver Lake, KKR, and Vista, among others.
Jio has been using Wi-Fi extensively in all three key application areas of home, business, and carrier services, to provide superior voice quality and coverage in indoor and outdoor environments. Wi-Fi technology is integral to its vision of making high-speed and affordable broadband available to a higher number of people in the country.
With a population of around 1.3 billion, India has around 504 million active internet users, who are five years old or more, according to a joint study by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Nielsen. Jio hopes to play a major role in connecting the unconnected and Wi-Fi is likely to play a significant role in this.
At one time the company hoped to have 1.5 million Wi-Fi hotspots by the end of 2019-20 and had deployed close to 200,000 hotspots. Jio’s Wi-Fi hotspot service is available across colleges, stadiums, streets, and business premises. “We plan to help millions of Indians to get connected to high speed reliable Internet, which ultimately will enable them to live digital lives. We will continue expanding our network to reach more people and change their lives,” says the Jio Wi-Fi spokesman.
Wi-Fi calling already widely successful
Jio launched Wi-Fi Calling earlier in January this year as only the second operator in the country to provide the service. “The response to this service is meeting our expectations. Most of our subscribers, with compatible phones, are using this service while they are within Wi-Fi coverage at home or office,” says the Jio Wi-Fi team. In India the number of handsets and devices supporting Voice over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi) is limited, but this is likely to change as new and better handsets hit the market.
For Jio, Wi-Fi is crucial to providing the best-in-class customer experience. Further, the company believes that as technology develops, the difference between Wi-Fi and mobile services will diminish with the advent of carrier aggregation and bandwidth sharing. “Wi-Fi would no longer be an independent service but will be a part of the overall network for an enhanced customer experience,” the Jio spokesman says.
Expect India to move ahead with 6 GHz for Wi-Fi
In recent times, the most significant development in Wi-Fi is the opening up of spectrum in 6 GHz frequency band for unlicensed use. Jio believes that it will open up a new chapter in Wi-Fi whenever it is made available in India.
“After the US, we have great expectations that other countries, including India, will move ahead with 6 GHz as an unlicensed band. The 6 GHz band has great potential in India as we connect more people and devices over the Internet. More spectrum will allow us to provide more bandwidth to consumers and businesses. Overall, we see a promising future for Wi-Fi 6E in India,” the spokesman says.