Reliance’s digital unit will likely go global as the 5G play directly coincides with the growing global backlash against China’s Huawei
Reliance Industries (RIL) Chairman Mukesh Ambani is not just satisfied with making Jio Platforms the undisputed digital leader in India, boasting of the largest customer base and biggest share of data and voice traffic. He set an even bigger ambition on July 15 after declaring that the company will deploy its fifth generation (5G) technology solutions in India and rest of the world.
"I have great pride in announcing that Jio has designed and developed a complete 5G solution from scratch. This will enable us to launch a world-class 5G service in India using 100 percent home grown technologies and solutions. This Made-in-India 5G solution will be ready for trials as soon as 5G spectrum is available…and can be ready for field deployment next year," said Ambani in a virtual address to shareholders of the company during RIL's 43rd AGM on July 15.
This move will put Jio Platforms in direct competition with 5G leaders such as Huawei, Nokia, Ericsson, ZTE and Cisco.
"Once Jio's 5G solution is proven at India-scale, Jio Platforms would be well positioned to be an exporter of 5G solutions to other telecom operators globally, as a complete managed service. Jio Platforms is conceived with this vision of developing original and captive intellectual property, using which we can demonstrate the transformative power of technology across multiple industry ecosystems, first in India, and then confidently offering these Made-in-India solutions to the rest of the world," he said.
Reliance Jio is planning to upgrade its network to 5G and it can easily do so due to Jio's converged, all IP-network architecture.
Jaideep Ghosh, COO, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Company, said, "The 5G market in India is definitely promising, but when it will happen in India still remains a question mark. Spectrum pricing in India is still very high and most telcos are not comfortable bidding for it unless the prices are made reasonable. The availability of 5G devices is still a concern. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, things which were done physically are being done digitally. So, there is a huge scope of 5G deployments, especially in healthcare, education, industrial and consumer applications.”Huawei’s loss may be Jio’s gain in India
Even as the anti-China sentiment globally is on the rise after the spread of coronavirus from China and Huawei banned by many countries, including US and UK, for 5G trials, Huawei along with Ericsson remain overall leaders in 5G mobile core infrastructure, according to a competitive assessment of the market by GlobalData.
According to Huawei’s website, over 700 cities and 228 Fortune Global 500 companies --58 of which are Fortune 100 companies – partnered with Huawei for digital transformation.
India is yet to officially ban Huawei for 5G trials in the country even as it banned 59 Chinese mobile applications, including popular ones like TikTok, Helo and WeChat, citing security risk.
Even if Huawei is banned in India, Jio Platforms will have to compete with 5G leading players like Ericsson and Nokia in India and overseas.
"Jio has the financial muscle after investments of about Rs 1.8 lakh crore from the global investors. During the AGM speech, Ambani talked about partnership with Intel and Qualcomm, who have shaped the semiconductor industry, and will work with Jio to develop new products for India. So, besides getting financial investments, Jio is working with credible names in the industry to come with 5G solutions,” said a leading telecom analyst.
Jio Platforms has built significant capabilities in several cutting-edge technologies and ecosystem in the 4G, 5G, cloud computing, devices and operating systems, big data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, virtual and mixed reality, block chain, natural language understanding and computer vision.
These technologies and ecosystem solutions are aimed at achieving 360-degree digital transformation of India in fields of media, financial services, new commerce, education, healthcare, agriculture, smart cities, smart manufacturing and smart mobility.
"Each of these solutions, once proven in India, has the potential to be a global solution that can be used to serve the rest of the world. I am setting a goal for Jio Platforms to pursue this global opportunity and to create a significant source of revenue from both the domestic and global markets. I believe the time has come for a truly global digital product and services company to emerge from India, and to be counted among the best in the world," Ambani said.
Paras Bothra, President Equities at Ashika Stock Broking, said, it would be premature to comment on competition in the 5G space in India as the 5G ecosystem is still evolving. “However, if Huawei is banned in India, Jio Platforms besides servicing Reliance Jio, India’s leading telco, may stand a chance to receive a mandate from one of the telcos. RIL has great execution potential and scalability is not a problem for the company.”
The Indian telecom market is led by profitable Reliance Jio, followed by Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea. “In terms of 5G deployments, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea may choose to partner with Ericsson or Nokia in case Huawei is banned in India. However, it will depend on the value the service providers may offer. Huawei has done significant work with the telcos that were eventually acquired by Bharati Airtel,” said an industry insider.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a statement on July 14 said clean carriers like Jio in India and others have also prohibited the use of Chinese company's equipment in their networks.
“Clean carriers like Jio in India, Telstra in Australia, SK and KT in South Korea, NTT in Japan, and others have also prohibited the use of Huawei equipment in their networks,” said Pompeo after the UK on July 14 announced its decision to ban British companies from buying Huawei-produced equipment for 5G networks from the end of the year.
RIL shares on BSE closed down 3.71 percent at Rs 1,845.6 in a volatile Mumbai market on July 15 after touching its 52-week high of Rs 1,978.5.Piyush Pandey is a senor journalist based in Mumbai