In December 2010, Mukesh Ambani, India's richest man, circulated a 36-page handwritten memo to executives that spelled out his plans to build one of the world's most advanced telecommunications networks.
The memo, which has been reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, described a fourth-generation, or 4G, wireless service with "99.999%" network availability; "integration with an app store, ours or others" to help smartphone users order fast food or buy movie tickets; sourcing of mobile devices from China and Taiwan; content delivery to "3 screens," cellphones, laptops and TVs; and two 300,000-square-foot data centers.
Nearly two years later, Ambani, chairman of the energy conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd., is putting some of those plans in motion in the hopes of vaulting India to the forefront of wireless broadband technology.
Reliance's plans identified 700 cities to target, including 100 high-priority markets, according to a person briefed on the matter. Delhi and Mumbai would be the first big launches, the person said. The effort could cost more than $10 billion, according to estimates by analysts, and it could require setting up tens of thousands of new cell towers.