Is Reliance Jio 4G really a sweet deal for data users or just a numbers game?

After years of waiting and immense hype, Reliance Jio was finally unveiled to the general public on September 1. Reliance Jio 4G service is available in the country starting September 5. The excitement about the launch was undeniably huge, and smartphone users were eagerly waiting to know what tariff plans the company had in store. Once the prices were announced, it left many in awe as how they can offer unlimited calling and 4G services at such cheap prices. In fact, it has fueled a price war among Indian telecom service providers, forcing many to slash their prices for call and data rates.

How can Reliance Jio offer free unlimited voice calls and 4G while others providers can’t?

Well, it’s a business model to give them a strong foothold in the market. The unlimited free voice calling isn’t exactly free, as you’ll still be nominally charged.

Unlike other networks which use 2G and 3G spectrum bands for voice calls and 4G bands for data, Reliance Jio relies on 4G bands for both. It is the only IP-based fibre optic network in India, which supports VoLTE voice calling. Hence, you’re not really making voice calls but rather a data voice call, similar to making calls on the Internet.

So when they say that users can make free interconnected voice calls to any network, there’s actually an interconnect charge of 14p for making calls to other networks, according to TRAI regulations.

It’s not as cheap as the company claims

It’s a simple business tactic and the term free voice calls is a part of the package to lure customers. Eventually, it seems you’ll pay the same amount of money that you’re currently paying. It is a revolutionary step from the company, but it’s not as cheap as the company claims.

Despite all the buzz about free unlimited calling or unlimited 4G data usage, Reliance Jio’s business model appears purely aimed at making money. Their tariff plans do look attractive on paper, but there’s more to it than what meets the eye.

Do Reliance Jio 4G plans sound convincing?

According to industry sources, the average monthly revenue per user that existing network providers in the country get is around Rs. 150 a month. If you look at Jio’s tariff plan, you see free unlimited voice calls, which is good for those who do a lot of calling. The Rs.149 per 28 days plan is a good proposition, as you get free unlimited voice calls. But even though you’re not paying for voice calls, you’re already paying around Rs. 150 for 28 days, which makes the average revenue per user on par with other network providers in the country. Implying that by just pricing things differently, Jio will make the same amount of money per user as other players, even after providing free SMS, roaming and voice calls.


Next, we have the Rs 499 plan, where we get unlimited 4G night data, along with the default unlimited calling feature. The only difference here compared to the Rs 199 plan is the additional 3.7GB of data, which you get for an extra cost of Rs. 350. For obvious reasons, many users will compare it with the smaller plan and will be attracted by the free unlimited 4G night data limit on offer.

But again, it’s not as convincing as it looks. Other competitors are also offering 5-10 GB of data for less than Rs. 400. Yes, I do agree that you get 4G with Reliance Jio compared to others that are offering 3G, but the point is that data provided remains the same. Implying you’re paying the same or perhaps a little more to Jio compared to your current network provider.

Reliance Jio 4G offers vs other Telecom operators

Coming onto the Rs 999 plan, which offers 10GB of data along with unlimited calling feature. Compared to the base Rs 149 plan, which already has an unlimited calling feature, what you here is 9.7GB of data for Rs.850. To put things in perspective, BSNL is now offering unlimited 3G data for Rs. 1099. Hence, just by paying a little extra, you get unlimited data from BSNL, which again suggests there’s nothing revolutionary about Reliance Jio. I agree you get 4G speeds with Reliance Jio, but at the end of the day, you get more data limit.

You also get smaller plans at Rs 19, Rs 199 and Rs 299, but even these do not seem to offer any more utility or value. For instance, the Rs 299 plan only gets you 2GB of data which is only valid for 21 days. And if you do exhaust your 2GB data limit, you’ll need to buy an add-on pack for Rs 19, which is only valid for a day and offers just 100MB. Now suppose you’ve run out of data and wanted to book an Uber ride, you’ll have to spend a minimum of Rs. 19 on Reliance Jio.

In comparison, the likes of Airtel, Idea, and Vodafone are offering a Rs. 9 pack where you get 35MB of data. I mean, you can easily get a Rs 9 data recharge from other service providers instead of Jio where you’ll have to shell out a minimum of Rs.19 to book an Uber ride. Moreover, the likes of Airtel and Idea are offering 100MB of 4G data for Rs 24 which is valid for three days, which I feel is a better alternative to Jio’s 100MB of 4G data for Rs 19 which lasts just one day.

Besides, media publications across the country highlighting that data charges on Reliance Jio being as low as Rs. 50/GB is a bit misleading. The reason being that the Rs 50 per GB data limit is applicable only when you buy Jio’s highest Rs. 4999 monthly pack. In that pack, you get around 75GB of data which translates to around Rs 50 per GB. Here again, if we exclude unlimited night data, and WiFi data, which many of us do not have access to as Wi-Fi Hotspots are not available everywhere, it translates to Rs 66/GB. Jio came up with the Rs 50/GB rate by adding access to Wi-Fi access you are getting.