Reliance Jio stepped up its offensive on the Indian market after unveiling a new handset targeted at low-income customers.
Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries which owns Jio, announced the launch of the JioPhone at an annual meeting, with the company set to begin taking orders for the low-tier feature phone next month.
According to the Financial Times (FT), the JioPhone will provide users with access to the company’s unlimited voice and data tariff at a monthly cost of INR153 ($2.40), and customers will have to pay a deposit of INR1,500 for the phone, that can be refunded after three years.
In comments cited by the FT, Ambani said at the meeting that “digital life will no longer be the privilege of the affluent few”.
Jio’s decision to launch a low cost handset adds another dimension to India’s newest operator’s strategy to snatch market share away from the country’s larger and more established players.
Jio, which launched its operations in September, said it amassed more than 100 million new subscribers within 170 days, after coming to market with a promotional offer giving customers free voice and data services for a limited period.
Larger rivals Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular have hit out at Jio’s tactics, and the companies have in turn also slashed prices, igniting a price war.
Jio’s move to launch a phone that requires only a deposit could pave the way for a new influx of poorer customers in the country.
The FT said that buying a phone in the country to use 4G services costs at least $50, which could deter many potential customers, but the deposit required for JioPhone is less than half that – making it the cheapest 4G phone available on the market.
A feature phone tends to lack the same functionality as a smartphone, and does not support many third party applications.