New Delhi: Reliance Jio has edged out Airtel and Vodafone and emerged as the frontrunner to serve the country's largest and most sought-after accounts in the telecom industry — the Railways. Jio will now power telephone calls, messages and data usage of around 3,78,000 Indian railway employees, beginning January 1. Officials have said that the new services will slash the national transporter's telephone bills by around 35 per cent at least.
The new tender was floated because the contract given to Bharti Airtel, which had been providing its services to the Railways and was responsible for connecting its 195,000 in closed user group (CUG) across the country, is set to expire on December 31 this year. The service cost the Railways around Rs 1 billion every year.
Last month, Jio had emerged as the lowest bidder for the account, edging out other telecom providers like Airtel and Vodafone. Sources said that the Railways had demanded free calls from the bidders and had got it from all of them, Jio edged out its rivals by offering low-cost data.
"While Airtel is serving around 195,000 railway subscribers, Jio will serve 3,78,000 personnel of the Railways, and because of the increase in the numbers, we are getting a better deal from the service provider. As a result of this, we are likely to reduce our phone bill by around 35 per cent."
A Railway Board order issued on November 20 said it "had assigned the responsibility to RailTel (railway PSU) for finalisation of fresh CUG scheme for Indian Railways as the validity of the existing scheme is expiring on December 31, 2018. Fresh CUG scheme had since been finalised by RailTel and Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited has been awarded the contract to implement the scheme."
"The fresh CUG will come into effect from January 1, 2019," said the order which detailed the tariff rates to be provided by the company.
Under the scheme, Jio is offering four packages to railways — one for its senior-most officials (two percent subscribers) — a 60 GB plan with a monthly rental of Rs 125, a 45 GB plan at a monthly rental of Rs 99 for its joint secretary level officers (26 per cent subscribers), a 30 GB plan at a rental of Rs 67 for Group C staff (72 per cent subscribers) and a Rs 49 rental plan for bulk SMS.
For regular subscribers, a 25 GB plan of Jio is available for Rs 199 and subscribers to have to pay Rs 20 per GB thereafter to top up their plans.
Railway employees have to pay Rs 10 for 2 GB of extra data they use and more thereafter, according to the plan worked out by Jio.
While under the present scheme, Railways is charged for calls outside CUG, the plan offered by Reliance Jio from January 1 will not do so. In addition, the low-cost data package offered to the Railways will also help slash its bills.
"While Airtel is serving around 195,000 railway subscribers, Jio will serve 3,78,000 personnel of the Railways, and because of the increase in the numbers, we are getting a better deal from the service provider. As a result of this, we are likely to reduce our phone bill by around 35 per cent," a senior official said.