Following the launch of Reliance Jio’s Rs 1,500 4G-enabled phone, other operators have been working overtime to match the offer. And it now appears they have found the answer.
First, it was Bharti Airtel which came out with an Rs 1,399 offer for an entry-level smartphone, which will be a Karbonn phone and will be sold in arrangement with Airtel. It is now learnt that the other two telecom majors, Vodafone and Idea will also follow suit.
According to an Economic Times report, they may tap the same Karbonn or the other Indian phone maker Lava to make and supply phones, which can have the minimal functions of a smartphone and be able to access the 4G service that has almost become the norm now rather than the exception.
The concept is also to convert the conventional mobile handset user to the smartphone category with bundled packages that may end up shifting the paradigm as far as the Indian rural communication scene is concerned. The number of such users is being put at 500 million and a majority of them live in towns and villages which is where most marketers seem to be headed.
For Idea and Vodafone, who are already in merger talks, this may be a test case of working jointly and take advantage of the volumes while negotiating with the handset makers. Phone companies have confirmed that such negotiations are already happening, but no firm decisions have yet been made. There is very little time at the disposal of Vodafone and Idea, since Diwali is less than a week away.
The plan is to choose a cross between a feature phone and a very low-end smartphone. Any phone with all the features of a smartphones, after all, cannot be sold at these price levels. The aim is to reach the benefits of low cost internet connectivity through smartphones to the bottom rung of the society as well.