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Reliance Jio gets MSO licence

MUMBAI: Barely few days after the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) announced going back to the system of offering provisional licence to MSO applicants, India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani got the permission to start his cable TV venture.

Ambani-controlled Rreliance Jio Media on Wednesday received from the MIB the licence to operate as a multi-system operator (MSO) in India, ahead of the 31 December 2015 deadline for Phase III of digital addressable system (DAS).

“We received provisional MSO licence yesterday evening,” a source confirmed.

Reliance Jio Media had applied for an MSO licence to the MIB in January. The application had been sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for security clearance on 2 February.

Since the Narendra Modi-led BJP government had scrapped the earlier system of provisional licence and decided to issue only permanent registration to MSOs, security clearance from the MHA was necessary. But with the process taking time, the MIB said on 11 June that it would grant provisional registration to MSOs.

Reliance Jio has ambitious plans to be a formidable quad-play service provider. Armed with a mammoth investment plan of Rs 70,000 crore (Rs 700 billion), the company will offer telecom, high-speed data, digital commerce, media and payment services. Reliance Jio Media will take care of the MSO side of the business.

Reliance Jio is planning to connect over one million homes via fibre by April of next year, with a capacity to scale up rapidly in the top 50 cities of India.

The launch of 4G services will be in December. Voice and data services will be priced as low as Rs 300–500 per month and the 4G smartphone below Rs 4,000.

For cable TV operations, Reliance Jio Media will initially target the Phase III and IV areas of DAS. In the Phase I and II areas, it will offer broadband services, along with its 4G launch. The fibre-to-the-home approach will involve engaging with the local cable operators (LCOs). It will directly compete with the MSOs and direct-to-home (DTH) operators.

The third phase of DAS covers 38.79 million television households across 630 districts and 7,709 urban areas spanning 29 states and five Union Territories.

Reliance Jio Media has already hired two former CEOs of leading cable companies to spearhead the venture. K Jayaraman, who led Hathway Cable & Datacom’s growth as the country’s largest MSO, is the CEO of Reliance Jio’s MSO business. SN Sharma, who as CEO rapidly built DEN Networks as the second-largest MSO, is also part of the top leadership team.

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