Bharti Airtel, to counter Reliance Jio Phone, is reportedly planning to launch its own 4G mobile. According to a report in The Economic Times, Airtel will launch the Android-based 4G phone just before Diwali, sometime in early October. ET cited an industry insider who is aware of the matter and said that the phone will come bundled with a heavy amount of data and voice calling features, priced at Rs 2500. Meanwhile, when contacted, Airtel refused to comment on the issue, saying that it is just a market speculation. However, according to the ET report, the phone will come with a bigger display, battery and camera than seen in most feature phones, and it is already in talks with brands like Lava and Karbonn to manufacture the device.
India reportedly has half a billion population who use feature phones and cannot afford a smartphone. After Jio, even Airtel seems to be jumping the fray to capture the huge market. Reliance made a big impact when it announced the Jio Phone, effectively free of cost. The pre-booking for the JioPhone will start from August 24, and it is expected that it will be a huge hit. The 4G feature phone comes at Rs 1500 and the amount will be returned after a period of three years, the company has claimed. The Jio mobile is expected to hit the market in September this year. So, if Airtel announces its own phone, it may have an effect on the sale of the Jio Phone.
Airtel had earlier said that it is trying to bring down the cost of phones, instead of subsidising the price. So a low-cost 4G mobile may give some competition to Reliance Jio, especially since a large part of the country cannot even afford a feature phone let alone a smartphone. Airtel may also co-promote the device along with the manufacturers themselves. However, experts have said that it is very difficult to give good features on a low-cost smartphone.
The ET report had also said that the Airtel 4G phone may be based on Android Go. Google had announced Android Go earlier this year, which is a smaller version of the Android OS directed at users with slow internet connectivity. However, even Google has not commented on the matter.
Interestingly, another telecom service provider Idea Cellular is planning to launch its own 4G phone. The device is expected to be priced at Rs 2500. While it is a great news for users that they will get a lot of options in the new telecom war, it may mean trouble for the companies. While Jio has a fully functional 4G Volte network, it is easier for it to provide unlimited voice calls. But that is not the case with most incumbents.