NEW DELHI: India’s newest telecom operator Reliance Jio Infocomm on Sunday said its subscriber base crossed 16 million customers within a month of launching its commercial operations on September 5, adding that the pace of enrolment was a world record. In a statement which gave out the official subscriber data for the first time since launch, Jio said has “achieved this growth faster than any other telecom operator or startup in the world, including the likes of Facebook, Whatsapp, and Skype”. Mukesh Ambani-owned Jio launched operations for its employees and its partners late December 2015, and subsequently rolled out its preview offer giving voice and data services for free for three months for owners of the sister company Reliance Retail’s LYF branded phones. Jio and Reliance Retail are units of Reliance IndustriesBSE -0.10 %. The preview offer was then expanded to practically all smartphone users, before Jio started commercial services September 5 with a ‘welcome offer’ which offered free voice and data till end of this year. All those under the preview offer scheme have since been moved to the ‘welcome offer’. Analysts say the real test will be once Jio starts charging for its services from next year, though the plans announced had offered voice free for life with data at a fifth of market rates. Rivals such as Bharti AirtelBSE -0.84 %, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular have subsequently announced their own plans, slashing effective data rates, with some plans offering voice free as well. They have also beefed up their own 4G spectrum holdings to better take on Jio in the market. But Jio seems to have made a strong start. “Jio is built to empower every Indian with the power of data,” said Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani in the statement, and described the customer response to Jio as “overwhelming” which meant that people were utilising its services to the fullest. In an interview to this newspaper shortly after its commercial launch, Ambani had said that the initial response had exceeded his expectations by a “factor of 100”. Ambani has set Jio’s executives a target of adding 100 million subscribers in the shortest time possible, but hasn’t given a timeline. Currently, market leader Airtel has over 257 million users, followed by Vodafone with over 200 million and Idea, nearly 177 million. In its statement, Jio said that it has introduced Aadhaar-based paperless Jio SIM activation across 3,100 cities and towns, which enables a customer to complete the SIM activation process in a matter of minutes, with only an Aadhaar number. “This process will be extended across the country and fully stabilised for satisfactory on-boarding experience in the next few weeks,” Jio added.