UPDATE 3-Reliance to launch 4G telecoms services in 2015

Wed Jun 18, 2014 9:03am EDT
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* Plans investment of $11.7 bln in telecoms business

* Raises three-year investment target to 1.8 trillion rupees

* Ambani says market-based prices key to develop energy resources (Adds Reliance forecast for retail business, new board member)

By Aman Shah

MUMBAI, June 18 (Reuters) - India's Reliance Industries Ltd will start offering fourth-generation (4G) telecommunications services next year, its chairman and India's richest man, Mukesh Ambani, said on Wednesday, a move that will intensify competition in an already crowded market.

Reliance, India's third-most valuable company, gets most of its revenue from its sprawling energy empire. It has expanded into new businesses like retail, telecommunications and media in recent years as growth in its core energy business slows.

Reliance made a return to telecoms in 2010 by acquiring the only company that had won nationwide 4G airwaves in a government auction, but has yet to start services as it builds the business on an unproven and still-developing technology.

On Wednesday, Ambani told shareholders that Reliance was planning an investment of 700 billion rupees ($11.7 billion) in the telecoms business, Reliance Jio, and would launch services in phases across India in 2015.

Reliance's entry into the telecoms sector poses a threat to rivals like Bharti Airtel Ltd, Vodafone Group Plc and Idea Cellular Ltd, which in recent quarters managed to raise voice call prices after a years-long price war.   Continued...