After changing the Indian telecom scene forever with Jio, Ambani is now taking aim at broadband.
Three years after elbowing into the Indian wireless phone market with free calls and data, billionaire Mukesh Ambani is back at it.
This time, Asia’s richest man is handing out TVs to hook users on movies and entertainment shows via the internet. The tycoon is wedging into a business teeming with players from rival mobile carriers to Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.
Ambani’s JioFiber broadband service, scheduled to start Thursday across India, comes with high-definition television and set-top boxes at no charge for annual lifetime subscribers. The offer by Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., the tycoon’s wireless powerhouse, includes subscriptions to most premium streaming services with prices starting from Rs 700 a month.
The fiber-TV salvo comes days after Jio formally swept into the No. 1 spot for wireless services after free calls and cheap data lured hundreds of millions of subscribers and left rivals Bharti Airtel Ltd. and Vodafone Idea Ltd. struggling under mounting debt. Airtel, backed by tycoon Sunil Mittal, and billionaire Kumar Mangalam Birla’s Idea are also trying to lure users by offering access to TV and movie content.
Telecom carriers around the world are adding entertainment content to their offerings as a way to compete for users and add revenue, especially in markets where the number of mobile subscriptions has reached saturation. In India, video-on-demand growth itself is explosive, according to researcher Boston Consulting Group.
The market could leap to $5 billion by 2023 from $500 million last year, BCG estimates.
The boom has set Bollywood production houses, carriers and streaming services racing to feed demand for TV shows and movies and compete for users. Paying subscribers will probably rise to as many as 50 million, while users of advertising-supported video-on-demand will reach 600 million, BCG predicts.