Reliance Jio, the new mobile network service, is due to officially launch in my city on September 5, which is tomorrow.
Why is it the talk of the town?
- 4G speed unlimited data during preview offer
- Free voice calls and SMS messages for all users forever
- VoLTE (Voice Over LTE) voice calls, that use data to make clear HD calls
- Incredibly cheap, which isn’t necessarily true - we’ll come back to this.
- Free WiFi hotspots
Now I’m interested in trying the Jio service myself, and have applied for a SIM. But in the meanwhile, I want to figure if it’s right for me so I spent a little time trying to cut through the hype, and get to the truth.
Free WiFi hotspots
This has been available for the last few months at the local racecourse, where I often go jogging. It does work but it’s not a place where I hang around for long, and I can’t be surfing while I’m jogging.
However if these hotspots were available at places where I sometimes get stuck, like the airport or railway station, it might be more useful. As of now, it’s not a feature that holds much appeal for me.
The preview offer
This is valid till December 31, and a good opportunity to check out the quality of the service.
Like how clear conversations are during calls. Data speeds while surfing. Call drops. Ease of billing and recharges. Connectivity in your home city, and while roaming. Support when you are in trouble.
If these basics are not in place, stay away
Now let’s assume that you are still happy with Jio when the year end comes, and the free preview offer is over.
Should you switch?
That depends on three things.
- Your phone’s compatibility with Jio’s service
- What you need from a mobile service
- Current monthly bill
Phone compatibility If your phone does not have the hardware to make VoLTE calls, you can’t get the Jio SIM. (A Jio app does give a workaround with lesser quality voice calls). To know if your phone is compatible, download the MyJio app, and open it. If you see a ‘Get SIM’ button on the app’s home page, your phone is compatible. If not, you are out of luck. (It worked on my iPhone 6S Plus, but didn’t on my Mi4i).
What you need of a mobile service For instance, I often make STD calls so the free voice calls appeal to me. I also travel outside my home state so free roaming is a big plus. I use the internet a lot for chatting, mail, surfing, banking, shopping, booking tickets, etc. I use my existing pack (1GB, 3G service plus unlimited 2G) mostly when I’m stuck outdoors away from a wifi. It will run out in no time if I use it for all the above. A 4GB pack would be a lot more useful. To sum up, free calls with free roaming, and cheap/large data packs will definitely interest me.
Current monthly bill I have been using a postpaid service with calls, STD/ISD calls, roaming, SMS messages are all chargeable according to usage while the internet is a fixed rate. My bill is always over Rs 500 a month.
Postpaid tariff Here are Jio's four basic postpaid packages.
As you can, the cheapest pack offers 300Mb for Rs 149. It’s practically useless for me. So my entry pack would be the 4GB pack for Rs 499. Still assuming a max tax of Rs 100, this would still be the same as my current bill.
However I get four times more data at a higher speed, won’t get charged for roaming, plus I don’t have to ever worry about cutting short STD calls to prevent bills from rapidly escalating. But I need to check details like the cost of crossing 4GB, and if data used in calls is taken from my data pack.
The Rs 50/GB that is being talked about is deliberately misleading as it applies only if you take the most expensive package of Rs 4999. Or count the data you get at free WiFi spots as part of your pack.
But overall, it does seem a good deal for me at my current spend.
Prepaid tariff Now let’s check out the four basic prepaid packs.
Let’s take my kid who is still in school and has a phone primarily for chatting and calls to her friends. She does access the net and watch videos but only on wifi. So she is happy with a basic prepaid pack.
The Rs 19 pack sounds good but it’s only valid for one day. Whereas the 28 day pack costs Rs 149. Data in both cases is minimum, and the unlimited data at night is pointless because she’s not going to be awake to avail it.
The Rs 299, 2GB pack is sort of okay because of the free calls. But sadly, it’s only for 21 days. The next pack which is not shown here, costs Rs 499, and offers the same services as the Rs 499 postpaid pack but is valid only for 28 days.
As you can see, the validity period of packs is the key issue. Other mobile services charge for talktime but it often lasts forever, and they are more practical for those who rarely make outgoing calls.
In short, Jio is not worth it for my kid, even with the free calls.
The preview offer and free calls make Jio seem inexpensive but it’s not true.
Anyone with a monthly mobile bill of over Rs 500 should definitely consider switching to Jio. This is even more so if you make a lot of local and STD calls, travel a bit and need free roaming, and use a lot of mobile internet.
For those who spend less than Rs 500/month, and mainly use the phone for incoming calls, Jio may not be practical. But if you are okay to increase your monthly spend on mobile to over Rs 500, then go for it.
I must once again state that I haven’t tried the Jio service and can’t vouch for its quality. If those basics are not in place, there’s no point in switching. I will update this page once I get the Jio SIM and use the service for a few days.
Update 1: It’s been a week since I got a Jio SIM but they haven’t activated it as yet. They first need to verify me as a genuine applicant, and the dealer said that might happen in a few days. I have a sneaking suspicion it might take a bit longer as the entire student population of my city (aged above 18) seems to be dying for the three months of free internet and calls. Meanwhile there are reports that speed has dropped. Anyway, I’m in no hurry as I’m more interested in how Jio performs after the free preview offer is over. So I don’t mind waiting till Reliance sorts out its teething issues.