Within a few days, embattled brother Anil Ambani struck. His Reliance Communication, he said, would merge with Aircel in the mother of all mergers, making it the largest amalgamation in the Indian telecom space. It would have an asset base of Rs. 65,000 crore and net worth of Rs. 35,000 crore.
The others weren’t far behind. Airtel and Vodafone cut data rates to keep up with the Joneses, sorry Jio. Next, they hit where it hurt most: the two companies didn’t provide the extra interconnect points needed to accommodate call volumes between them and Jio. The result: Jio faced up to 20 million call drops every day.
Finally, the grandma of telecom, BSNL, announced free voice calling. It plans rates that are cheaper than Jio in the 2G and 3G segments and may offer free lifetime calls from next year.
The war guns have started blazing.
With number mobility on, the winner would be the one who provides the best value for money.
Let’s get into a bit of history.
There is this 1949 song Mere Piya Gaye Rangoon, Kiya Hai Wahan se Telephone from the Hindi movie Patanga. Heroine Nigar Sultana fondly holds a phone even as she sings these lines to her lover Shyam Chadda who is in Burma. This telephone was not a smartphone. Neither was it a mobile, nor the sleek landline phone. Well, it was not even the big black instrument whose numbers you dialled by turning them one by one. Sultana was using an ancient version of telecom, where the earpiece looked like a trumpet! Hearing your loved ones speak across miles was a luxury affordable to a few.