October 30, 2023
India’s Reliance Jio has added yet another connectivity service to its stable in the form of JioSpaceFiber.
Following the recent rollout of fixed-wireless access (FWA), it has now launched a new satellite broadband service that promises to provide gigabit speeds to the most remote parts of the country.
To underscore that commitment, Jio said JioSpaceFiber has been made available in four particularly isolated areas: Gir in Gujarat; Korba in Chattisgarh; Nabrangpur in Odisha; and Jorhat in Assam.
In keeping with its general tradition of undercutting rivals, Jio promised that JioSpaceFiber will be available at “highly affordable prices.”
There’s no word on exactly how affordable the service will actually be, but Jio will presumably have to tread carefully to ensure it is used by customers as a backup option – or a connectivity service of last resort – to mitigate the risk of cannibalising its fixed-line Jio Fiber service.
“Jio has enabled millions of homes and businesses in India to experience broadband Internet for the first time. With JioSpaceFiber, we expand our reach to cover the millions yet to be connected,” said Jio chairman Akash Ambani, which suggests that Jio may try and avoid any overlap between its fixed and satellite services altogether.
Even though Jio already provides connectivity to 450 million customers, it would still leave a sizeable addressable market.
According to a report published this month by the Indian Space Association (ISpA) and Deloitte, by 2025, approximately 56 percent of new Internet users will come from rural areas, by which time the country will boast 900 million Internet connections in total. It predicts that the market for satellite broadband in remote locations will be worth $263 million over the next five years.
“JioSpaceFiber will allow everyone, everywhere, to fully participate in the new digital society with gigabit access to online government, education, health, and entertainment services,” Ambani declared.
The service is carried by satellite operator SES’ O3b and newer O3b mPower medium Earth orbit (MEO) satellites. The latter are capable of providing multi-gigabit connection speeds, and started entering orbit at the back end of last year.
JioSpaceFiber has been in the works since February 2022, when Jio’s network infrastructure division – Jio Platforms – formed a joint venture with SES, called Jio Space Technology Limited. Jio owns 51 percent, and SES owns 49 percent.
At the time, the companies said they planned to use a combination of MEO satellites and SES-12 – one of SES’ older, geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) satellites. That plan now appears to have been tweaked in favour of focusing on the exclusive use of MEO satellites instead.
“Together with Jio, we are honoured to support the Government of India’s Digital India initiative with a unique solution that aims at delivering multiple gigabits per second of throughput to any location in India,” said SES’ chief strategy officer John-Paul Hemingway. “Our first fibre-like services from space are already deployed today in parts of India, and we cannot wait to see how this will lead to digital transformation even in the most rural parts of the country.”
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