To counter Reliance Jio’s bid to capture the 4G services market with low cost bundled handsets, telecom major Bharti Airtel is planning to launch Airtel branded smartphones for Rs 4,000 by October-November. “Airtel is in advanced stages to finalize vendors to launch dual mode 4G handset in the price range of Rs 4,000-12,000. Negotiations are around if it should be only Airtel branded handset or co-branded handsets,” a industry source privy to the development said.
The company is in discussions with Chinese vendors and even held talks with Taiwan based Foxconn, which has set up its mobile manufacturing plant in India. However, no immediate comments were received from Airtel and Foxconn. RIL Chairman Mukesh Ambani in the company’s annual general meeting said that with the effort of Reliance Jio Infocomm, the country will get to see 4G mobile phones for less than Rs 4,000. This will be second time entry of Mukesh Ambani in the telecom space. In 2003, Reliance launched mobile phones for Rs 500 which led to immediate jump in its subscriber base.
Sources added that the handset will come with long term bundled plan but may not be locked only to the Airtel network. “It will support both FDD and TDD LTE network. It will not be locked handset but will come with bundled plans which the company feels will glue customers to its network. Expected time line for launch of these handsets is around the upcoming festive season of Diwali, say October-November,” the source said.
Airtel has started launching 4G service across the country in a phased manner. The telco had launched India’s first 4G services in Kolkata around 3 years ago. It has launched services across cities like Nagpur, Aurangabad, Bengaluru, Pune, Chandigarh, and Patiala among others. Further, 4G trials have been launched for existing Airtel customers in Delhi, Hyderabad, Vizag, Madurai, Chennai, Coimbatore and Mumbai.