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Jio to charge for data from Apr; calls to remain free

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani's telecom unit Jio will begin charging for data services from April but will give steep discounts for a year to over 100 million customers who have come on board within six months of its launch.

While local voice calls, STD and roaming will continue to be free, he promised to match the best offers of rival telecom companies and add 20 per cent more data from April 1.

In a speech broadcast live from the company's social media accounts, Ambani said Jio has added 100 million subscribers in 170 days since launch in September last year and the company plans to extend the network to cover 99 per cent of population by this year-end.

Jio, which marked Ambani's re-entry in telecom space after a decade with free voice calls for life and free data for a promotional period that was extended until March 31, will offer existing users unlimited services for a year at a monthly charge of Rs 303 and one-time membership fee of Rs 99.

The entry forced incumbents to cut tariff and consider mergers to face competition from Jio. Vodafone and Idea are considering a merger to create a player bigger than the market leader, Bharti Airtel.

The incumbents also challenged Jio's promotional scheme before telecom regulator Trai, saying free services beyond 90- days were a violation of rules.

While shares of Reliance Industries, the parent firm of Jio, rose 1.36 per cent to close at Rs 1,088.25 on BSE, rival Bharti Airtel tanked 3.9 per cent to close at Rs 362.95. Idea Cellular fell 0.4 per cent to Rs 108.30.

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