Reliance Jio prepares for its next round of disruption

Ian Scales
By Ian Scales

Oct 27, 2021

via Flickr © The Knowles Gallery (CC BY 2.0)

via Flickr © The Knowles Gallery (CC BY 2.0)

  • The empire continues to expand as Jio fosters private 5G and readies its ground-breaking Android smartphone
  • The thing about Jio is that those two developments could play in combination. Maybe not right now, but almost certainly one day

Two developments this week illustrate the gathering pace of India’s Reliance Jio’s expansion and growing ambition. The first is the announcement by Radisys, an important plank in the Jio Platform, that it has brand new 5G software to offer. Taken in isolation there’s nothing terribly earth-shattering about that. Radisys is an excellent next gen network software pioneer continuing to keep up to speed in a fast-developing world.

The second development was an announcement that Jio’s delayed smartphone launch is now on the slipway (chip shortages got in the way of a September launch and it will now arrive in early November in time for Diwali). The phone sports the Pragati operating system, jointly developed by Google and Reliance Jio, and the phone, when it shows up, is thought to be the cheapest Android smartphone in the world. 

It is designed to be disruptive on more than just its pricing. It is going to rely on voice search and has translation features baked into the operating system to cope with 10 different Indian languages.

The Radisys announcement today illustrates the spread of the Jio platform. It’s a private 5G offering of Release 16 Compliant 5G NR protocol software which supports low latency use cases for 5G private networks. The announcement is peppered with the usual claims of elasticity, agility and enhancements to all the aspects of a 5G environment: functionality, capacity, coverage, latency, mobility, reliability, ease of deployment and of course ‘compliance’ - in this case the Radisys Connect RAN 5G solution is based on specifications from 3GPP, the Small Cell Forum, and the O-RAN Alliance. But all that standard conformance makes it hard for a marketeer to highlight any standout features of the product itself. The alternative is to concentrate on the standing of the company, its partners and overall objectives.

Radisys has its headquarters in Oregon in the US, but has an engineering facility in Bangalore, India. Since July 2018 it has been fully owned by Reliance Jio, which added Radisys to a fast expanding group of companies bunched together as Jio Platforms. Jio Platforms now spans the telecoms and networking scene in India and increasingly around the world.

So Radisys essentially becomes an important 5G software cog in the Reliance Jio machine and to some extent that problem of stand-out identity is no more - Radisys is the Jio Platform for 5G software, although it still operates as an independent company plying its trade with all-comers. 

The Reliance Jio strategy is fascinating. The company has made constructive disruption its raison d’etre and it’s proved very successful at it so far. Led by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, Jio originally swept through the Indian market using free calls and dirt cheap data, having pumped in $33 billion to build a nationwide 4G broadband service network.

At bottom its approach is to own properties - like Radisys - which span the broad IT and communications scene. That enables it to assemble and deploy technologies, products and services at low prices (often) or in innovative combinations, such as its voice-oriented smartphone. The result is appropriate technology and pricing for the Indian market and a huge boost to Indian ambitions to build a vast online economy comprising both giant companies and  very small ones.

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