India's Richest Man Just Gave a Billion People Free 4G Internet

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India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, has built a wireless network that offers 4G wireless connectivity to more than 80 percent of the country. Now he’s letting people use that network for free until the end of 2016, with the intention of charging just $2.25 per month for data plans after that grace period ends.

CNN Money reports that Ambani’s network, called Reliance Jio, is on track to reach 90 percent of Indians by 2017. The idea is to provide connectivity to the many people who can’t access high-speed internet via wired networks.

A device on the Reliance Jio network reportedly had download speeds of 21 megabits per second earlier today. That’s not quite enough for the Federal Communications Commission to consider it “broadband” internet, which has a benchmark of 25Mbps, but it’s faster than many internet services in the U.S.


The FCC data visualization above — which is just one of many interesting maps published by the agency — shows that much of the U.S. doesn’t have a fixed 25Mbps internet provider. Reliance Jio likely comes closer to meeting that standard than many dial-up or DSL providers in the U.S.

And this network is available for free! Sure, it’s not as interesting as internet-providing lasers, drones, and balloons, but it still shows a glimpse into a world where a decent internet connection is available to more people at more reasonable prices.

Just imagine what that would be like when Facebook pushes to enable “5G” wireless networks that will be even faster than its 4G predecessor. Maybe the future of internet access doesn’t need fancy drones or hot-air balloons — it just needs affordable wireless plans like this one.

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