Indian operator’s ‘Summer Surprise’ unlikely to go down well with its rivals.

Reliance Jio Infocomm late last week served up a welcome surprise for its customers, but a nasty surprise for its rivals, as it extended its offer of free services by another three months.

The disruptive Indian operator has been providing free voice, messaging and data since last September, causing a fierce price war and setting off a wave of consolidation in the mobile market.

It is in the process of introducing its Jio Prime Membership Programme, under which customers pay an enrolment fee of 99 rupees (€1.40) plus INR303 (€4.29) per month thereafter, and receive unlimited services until March 2018. It is also rolling out its Everyday More Value Offer, which sees Jio match the price of its rivals’ best-selling tariffs, but provide 20% more data.

Jio had originally planned to start charging for services from 1 April; however, it has extended the deadline until 15 April to give prospective customers more time to enrol.

As a reward for new Jio Prime customers, those who sign up and make their first payment of INR303 before 15 April are eligible for the Jio ‘Summer Surprise’ offer, which gives them access to free services for a further three months.

"Your paid tariff plan will be applied only in July, after the expiry of the complimentary service," explained Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Jio parent Reliance Industries, in a letter to customers on Friday.

"Your first recharge is an auspicious moment. Therefore, we want to offer a token of our appreciation and gratitude to all Jio Prime members," he said.

The complimentary period will also help familiarise Jio customers with Jio’s self-service top-up app, Ambani said.

The announcement will not have gone down well with Jio’s rivals, which have been put on the back foot by its aggressive tactics.

The market’s biggest players have resorted to mergers and acquisitions in an effort to ease the pressure wrought by Jio.

Bharti Airtel recently agreed to buy Telenor’s Indian business as well as 4G spectrum held by Tikona.

Vodafone India and Idea Cellular have agreed to form a joint venture, as have Reliance Communications and Aircel.