Reliance Jio (RJIL) is likely to delay its commercial 4G launch to April next year, contrary to the company’s previous statement that it would launch by the end of this year. According to a filing by on the company on BSE (pdf), “Financial year 2016-17 is projected to be the first year of commercial operations for RJIL“.

In June, Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries Limited, said in his speech that Jio would roll out its complete commercial operations by December this year. He said that the company would roll out internet services on their beta program which would involve “millions of customers” across the country. “I am glad to announce that financial year 2016-17 will be the first full year of commercial operations for Jio”, he said then.

Reliance Jio has missed BWA rollout obligations, but so have others

Interestingly, BWA rollout obligations technically kicked in last month, in September 2015, 5 years after the original auctions. All telecom operators which are BWA licensees were required to have street level coverage in at least 90% of the metro service areas and at least 50% of the rural short distance changing areas (SDCAs), failing which the operators are liable to face penalties.

If the delay is true, RJIL will miss the deadline comfortably by around six months, its umpteenth delay before launching Jio. The company has been talking about a 4G rollout since 2013 without revealing any concrete details about it. In December last year, the company launched a preview website that went live for a short period of time providing information on Reliance Jio’s Broadband tariffs etc. In July, it even claimed to have a presence in 18,000 cities in towns, with the network in pre-launch testing mode.

Note that Airtel and Aircel are the only operators to actually launch services before the BWA deadline. However, Aircel is yet to launch in all cities it owns spectrum, a requirement of the BWA deadline. Additionally, companies have to achieve 90% and 50% coverage areas in metros and rural areas respectively, a requirement we aren’t certain Airtel has met.

Also read: Airtel & Idea now charge same for less data & validity on 3G recharges; why? & Reliance Jio’s Jyotindra Thacker: “You’ll see an unleashing of bandwidth”

Medianama’s take: The deadline is a joke. Given the lack of any urgency from telecom operators to start rolling out 4G services, it doesn’t look like any of them are actually taking the rollout deadline seriously. In fact, the telecom industry body COAI actually asked for an incredulous five year extension in 4G network rollout deadline to 2020. So basically, if the telecom operators have it their way, none of us in India will see any 4G connections till around the time the world starts rolling out 5G (NGMN Alliance recommendation (pdf). This consortium includes Vodafone.)

India already has one of the slowest average internet speeds in the world, with less than 19% of the mobile internet connections experiencing speeds over 4Mbps (3G offers a max of 7.2Mbps). Meanwhile, even the government does not seem to take the issues of slow internet seriously. We’ve got to ask more out of the Digital India programme. Basic speeds and infrastructure is paramount to its success.

Image source: Flickr user Chris Devers