More reports on: Reliance Industries, Telecom

Jio to tie up with Intex, others, flood market with cheap 4G phones

20 July 2017

Reliance Industries is working on a strategy to sell 200 million affordable 4G feature phones - likely to be priced from Rs1,000-1,500 - in two years, industry sources told PTI. The company is planning to launch it in the second half of August.

The Reliance Jio 4G VoLTE feature phone will be made by Intex in India, various reports said.  The Mukesh Ambani-led company has signed up Intex as a vendor for its feature phone, which will be priced by Jio on a subsidy model, much like the strategy it followed for the launch of its 4G services.

Nidhi Markanday, director and business head, Intex Technologies was quoted by The Economic Times as saying that the co-developed phone will be marketed by the Reliance Jio, with the handset maker not involved in this aspect.

''We will launch this 4G feature phone in this quarter, but will not be selling it stand alone in the market. We are in dialogue with Reliance Jio for bundling which should be through very soon,'' Markanday said.

Facing an onslaught from Chinese rivals, Intex has faced big losses in recent quarters. The company aims to overcome this with the launch of as many as 19 4G smartphones priced under Rs7,999 along with nine feature phone handsets under its new series, Navaratna.

When the Intex executive was asked about the order size for the 4G feature phone which will support the VoLTE technology for voice, she said, ''Jio has given us a ballpark figure. Initially, we will not be going in a big way as we first want to test the waters.''

According to the ET report Jio has placed an order of 18-20 million 4G VoLTE feature phones with key Chinese original device manufacturers (ODMs). Meanwhile, Indian handset makers Micromax and Lava have said that they are in talks with Jio for bundled offers for 4G feature phones.

''Reliance has not yet finalised actual unit price of the feature phones, but it is likely to be in the range of Rs 1,000-1,500 a unit. It will be smart feature phone with pre-loaded apps of Reliance Jio like Jio TV, Jio Money etc,'' one of PTI's sources said.

He said the phone will not have touchscreen facility like smartphones, but will have all other facilities like Wi-Fi connectivity and browsing and come with a cable that can connect the handset with television sets to watch Jio TV content.

''The company is eyeing 2G users who cannot afford expensive smartphones and are paying high call rates. Jio's voice calls will be free which will encourage them to buy these handsets,'' the source said.

Reliance Jio has started the process of importing handsets and is in discussion with Foxconn as well as Intex to make them in India. ''Around 10 million units are being planned for initial sales and the company has plans to increase inventory to 100 million in the first year and another 100 million next year. Discussions have started with Foxconn and Intex to make these phones in India,'' the PTI source said.

Mobile industry body Indian Cellular Association in a submission to the government has said the total size of Indian mobile phone market was estimated to be around 280 million units in 2016 and is expected to grow to 320 million by 2018.

A source privy to discussions told PTI Intex had approached RIL for bundling Jio service for a state government tender.

''Intex will bid for a state government tender which has huge requirement of low-cost mobile phone, but it wants bidder to come with a service provider. The economy of scale is enough to bring down the cost of phone. The discussion with RIL started for this tender and is now moving in direction for low-cost 4G feature phones,'' the source said.

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