Reliance Jio is a massive business, supplying connectivity to around 400 million customers, mainly in the South Asia region. And it’s usually a responsible company, delivering smartphone contacts and internet connections reliably. However, from a security perspective there’s a major problem with Jio’s service.
In January 2019, users with the company started reporting strange issues when trying to use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) with their internet connections. According to users on Reddit, Reliance’s ISP has started to blanket block various popular VPNs and portals for downloading VPNs.
This article will explore these developments and try to provide advice to worried Jio customers about how to best protect their privacy.
Understanding the Reliance Jio VPN crackdown: what’s happening?
The changes came almost overnight, just after New Year. Apparently, sites like Megaproxy, Proxy.toolur, VPNbook, Kproxy, and Hidester were suddenly inaccessible for Indian users, despite being available for subscribers of Jio’s major competitors.
At first, this seemed like a brief interruption. But it seems like Jio’s policies are designed for the long haul. And they fit into a wider pattern of online developments.
The VPN crackdown comes as India’s government is targeting certain online content, including privacy tools like VPNs. Pornography has long been under the microscope, but it looks like New Delhi is seeking tighter control over how people use the web. Reliance may have fallen into line as a pre-emptive move before official regulations come into effect.
And it also fits into Reliance’s business strategy. Until now, Jio 4G has tightly limited the range of apps available to download, offering a cheap, but restricted form of internet access. Now, VPNs have been erased from the available apps – not a massive change of policy for the communications giant.
Now is the ideal time to invest in a VPN you can rely on
With information becoming more tightly controlled by the government, numerous commentators have suggested that net neutrality is the real target here: the guarantee that all online content has the same rights, and that big business cannot pay for premium treatment.
VPNs are a well-known way to work around geo-blockers and other filters. These tools, used by all sorts of global corporations, seek to segment the internet, delivering certain content to specific markets, while denying it to others.
This is great for profits, but bad for ordinary internet users. Until Jio started its anti-VPN campaign, Indian web users had a way out. Now, as many VPNs are knocked out of action, the question is: which VPNs can Reliance Jio subscribers rely on?
That’s where this article comes in. We’ve scoured the market for VPNs that really work – despite Jio’s efforts to prohibit them. So let’s get into the detail and try to make some suggestions that will keep you hidden and free to do what you want online.
What should you look for in a VPN to beat Jio’s censors?
Before we make some concrete recommendations, we need to understand what separates effective VPNs from ones that are all-too-easy to silence. In the world of VPNs, some providers are much more secure and hard to remove than others. And some are hardly even VPNs at all, so Jio’s tech experts will have had no problems blocking them.
Here are some basic features that Reliance customers should look for when choosing a VPN for their Jiosmartphone:
- 256-bit encryption – if Jio is going to be censoring online activity in the future, and the government is getting used to surveillance, you can’t compromise where encryption is concerned. Free VPNs tend to offer very limited encryption and proxies rarely include it at all. But good VPNs deliver military-grade protection that neither the government nor Reliance IT staff can crack.
- Android compatibility – it’s likely that you are accessing your account via a 4G phone (after all, that’s what Reliance’s web service is geared towards). So we need a VPN that’s tailored to Android smartphones, and which uses protocols that ensure watertight VPN tunnels, and high speeds.
- Total IP anonymity – let’s assume you are keen to beat the geo-blockers on sites like Netflix (and get away from the limited selection of movies available from JioTV’s services). And you might even want to access adult websites. If so, you simply have to anonymize your IP address. Good VPNs can do this, and they won’t leak any data. Poor VPNs may assign you a replacement IP, while leaking this to observers. This will render anti-blocking features totally obsolete and make it easy to track your activity.
- Anti throttling – throttling occurs when ISPs slow down web connections when users exceed data limits, and it’s something that Jio has been accused of in the past. Good VPNs are set up to specifically defeat ISP throttling, keeping your web connection at a respectable speed all the time.
- Price – even though we’re talking about elite VPNs, we aren’t keen to promote services which deliver bad value. A good VPN doesn’t have to be an expensive VPN – so keep that in mind. Lightweight, affordable providers are what smartphone users need, and there are plenty around.
- International coverage – If the worst happens, and India becomes a more heavily censored country, you’ll want the ability to connect to servers across the world. This provides access to streaming platforms and news that wouldn’t normally be available. Moreover, if the government adopts a Chinese-style Great Firewall, VPNs will be the only way to reach over it to access the world’s information.
How to find the right VPN for Jio users
Now we’ve set out a few criteria for what constitutes a good VPN for Jio, let’s make some suggestions. These are just recommendations – and you may find that other providers appear. But for now, you can rely on these VPNs to get the job done:
1. ExpressVPN ‣
One of the best VPNs in the world, ExpressVPN maintains thousands of servers on all continents. It’s tailored to allow seamless access to platforms like JioTV and Hotstar, not to mention Netflix. And it almost always gets around geo-blockers.
2. NordVPN ‣
Another member of the elite group of global VPNs, NordVPN is fast, has a huge server community, and is hardly ever defeated by censors or geo-blockers. There’s a 30 day money-back guarantee, and discounts can bring the price down dramatically, while the Android app is brilliant.
3. VyprVPN ‣
VyprVPN is another excellent option, with its slick mobile app, infallible IP address protection and very high speeds. As with NordVPN and ExpressVPN, it maintains Indian servers, ensuring reliable performance, but has truly global reach as well.
Be prepared for an age of tightening corporate control
The Reliance Jio VPN crackdown could be the beginning of a difficult period for Indian web users. If the commentators are right, VPNs are coming under attack, as companies seek to turn the internet into a more profitable, and more tightly controlled environment.
However, you can fight back. With a high-quality VPN on your smartphone, Jio will find it much harder to control your activity. So give yourself the tools you need and protect your privacy, whatever happens.