For the two brothers, the digital-mobile convergence will offer the biggest, and most lucrative, media play. Mukesh has a pan-India licence to offer 4G (broadband) services. He plans to invest a whopping
Rs 70,000 crore to offer 4G services to consumers in 5,000 cities and towns, which comprise 90 percent of urban India and 2.15 lakh villages. In a sense, it will be the privatised form of Modi’s ‘Digital India’. With 4G and cable, RJI can distribute content through wireless, wireline and cable.
One of the grandest global plans that Mukesh has invested in is the Bay of Bengal Gateway (BBG), an 8,000-km submarine cable system that will connect Malaysia and Singapore to West Asia, with connections to India (Mumbai and Chennai) and Sri Lanka. As an RIL press release said, “The construction of BBG is planned not only to provide connectivity between South East Asia and the Middle East, but also to Europe, Africa and to the Far East Asia through inter-connections with other existing and newly-built cable systems landing in India, the Middle East and the Far East Asia (sic).”
If his 4G and broadband strategy has to take off, infrastructure in the form of wireline (optic fibre, undersea and terrestrial cable) and wireless (telecom towers) is crucial. So, apart from BBG, RJI has signed an agreement with another telecom player, Bharti Airtel. Under the ‘indefeasible right to use’ contract, Bharti will provide RJI data capacity on its i2i submarine cable, which is owned by the former and connects India to Singapore with landing points at Chennai and Tuas.
Domestically, Mukesh has roped in his younger brother to use the latter’s optic fibre network. In April 2013, the former agreed to pay Rs 1,200 crore to utilise Anil’s 1.2 lakh-km inter-city optic fibre network to help roll out its 4G services. A year later, RJI inked a similar deal to use 5 lakh km of intra-city fibre network. For the wireless services, Mukesh agreed to pay Rs 12,000 crore to his younger brother to use the latter’s ground- and rooftop-based telecom towers. Similar agreements were signed with other domestic players owning a large number of telecom towers.
As mentioned earlier, Anil owns a huge network of optic fibre and telecom towers. After his successful entry into 2G and 3G mobile services, he has his eyes set on 4G and broadband, just like his elder brother. In addition, he owns undersea cable links in the form of Flag and has signed a deal to build a terrestrial cable connection to China to connect India to East Asia. Another of his innovative projects is Metro Ethernet, which allows digital films to be shown in cinema theatres.