Decoded: Reliance Jio’s ‘unlimited data’ claim and 4gb daily usage limit

Decoded: Reliance Jio's 'unlimited internet' claim and 4gb daily usage limit
Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani at the launch of Jio

The data revolution in India has began. Well almost.

Earlier this month, Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani announced the launch of the company’s most ambitious project till date – a 4G data centric network that makes the competition look dated.

In a market where even an average metropolitan user uses less than 2gb of 3G data per month, Jio was offering unlimited 4G usage till December 31 as a part of its ‘welcome offer’.

Couple that with the free calling across the country, which will be retained post the promo period, and the decision to opt for a new Reliance Jio SIM was somewhat of a no-brainer. Needless to say, that’s what a LOT of people actually did.

Teething issues

Since the launch on September 5, most prospective users complained about the non-availability of Jio SIM cards. Understandable if you consider the demand, surprising if you consider the fact that the company wanted to achieve 100 million users in record time.

Decoded: Reliance Jio's 'unlimited data' claim and 4gb daily usage limit 3
A sign outside Reliance Digital Express store

Surely, a company which has some of the best ‘brains’ in the country working for them, knew the demand was going to be staggering at worst. It was free internet and voice calls after all.

Nevertheless, the jury is still out on whether the scheduled disbursement of SIM cards is an operational roadblock or simply a case of ‘artificial scarcity’.

Meanwhile, for some of the hundreds of thousands of consumers who finally managed to get their hands on the elusive SIM, a different problem has surfaced.

The not so ‘unlimited’ data

Most users who got the SIM card, unsurprisingly, were not aware of the 4gb daily limit that is imposed on SIM cards sold under the ‘welcome offer’. Once a user exhausts 4gb of data in a day, they are simply downgraded to 128 kbps speed for the next 24 hours.

Messages received by Jio users about data capping
Messages received by Jio users about data capping

The company, on their part, did mention the limit in the offer details. But, like you’d expect, it was mentioned in a footnote. The last place you’d look when you get the SIM, and the first place when something goes awry.

What does the 4gb limit mean for a regular user?

For most, it’s inconsequential. Using 4gb of data everyday is nothing less than an anomaly if you use the phone like you used to before switching over to Jio.

Even for heavy internet users who regularly browse, video chat, update apps, listen to internet radio and stream HD videos, the limit is more than adequate.

In fact, unless you actually watch HD videos for a few hours daily, there’s a very real possibility that you may never even come close to exhausting the limit.

What’s the point of a limit that no one can exhaust?

This is where the 1 to 5 percent of users, who opted for the SIM to ‘really’ use it, come in. For a lot of teenagers and working professionals, ‘high speed unlimited internet’ literally translates to ‘more downloads more quickly’.

During research, we spoke to a dozen teenagers who got the SIM or were planning to get one for the purpose of downloading movies, TV series and games – all of which are enough to exhaust the limit.

To put things in perspective, an average movie download comes to around 700mb, implying that one can easily download more than 5 movies while still having enough data to get through the rest of the day.

But as often is the case with anything that comes free, it makes us slightly more greedy, more ambitious. Having high speed data may prompt many to opt for HD downloads, in which case the 4gb limit can be exhausted by downloading just one or two movies.

Why the ‘unlimited data’ claim then?

Those who are a tad more technologically inclined know that there is no such thing as ‘unlimited data’.

Data is not something that can be provisioned out of thin air as and when required. It is hardware-dependant. So everyone can’t have unlimited data all the time while being cost efficient.

While the upper limits may be so high that one might never reach the ceiling, know that for all intent and purposes – it does exist.

In the age of internet, ‘unlimited data’ is simply one of the most abused, overused and yet most effective marketing jargon when it comes to selling data plans. It holds true for those who never reach it, and is nothing more than a gimmick for those who often do.

Is Jio cheating customers by promising ‘unlimited data’?

Nope. The disclaimer was always present. Those who bothered to read, made a wiser decision by knowing the limit and then purchasing.

If you’re wondering how they were able to market something as ‘unlimited’ without actually offering it, there’s a list of telecom providers, hosting companies, broadband providers etc who will have to be prosecuted for doing the same before one can get to Jio.

While one can still argue that the company could have been more upfront about it, it seldom happens that a brand advertises about a ‘limitation’ to all its customers, knowing full well that it won’t apply to a vast majority of them.

So, if you’ve got the SIM already, you can either confine your usage to the limits or replace the SIM with an option that doesn’t exist in the market today.

On the other hand, if you’re someone who was considering buying a SIM for heavy downloading, you can now make a well informed decision. For others, who wanted to get the SIM for regular data use and calling, nothings changed.

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