Jio working with Nokia, others for affordable 4G mobile push: Senior executive

NEW DELHI: Reliance Jio is working with featurephone makers including Transsion’s Itel, Lava and Nokia to make their own versions of affordable JioBharat 4G devices, in a bid to push around 250 million 2G users to go for 4G and beyond, a top company executive said.

The telco is also set to announce an enhanced version of its Rs 999-priced 4G phone with support for UPI payments, WhatsApp and live TV streaming.

“We wanted to establish the product in the market and in the minds of the consumer, so they could associate with it, relate with it…Today, all brands, whether it’s Itel, Lava or Nokia, are in touch with us in terms of how do we make it happen,” Sunil Dutt, president (devices division) at Reliance Jio, told ET.

Dutt said a typical 2G user isn’t comfortable using a smartphone, finding it expensive and prone to malfunctions. Affordability, he said, is the biggest factor, and Jio’s new push into the featurephone market is done in a manner to lower the cost of ownership.

The JioBharat phones come with special 4G monthly plans which Dutt said are priced much lower than competition.

“This is the most exploited customer and surprisingly our competitors have no sense of regret in exploiting them too. Our next-door neighbours charge ?180 to this customer and give them 2GB data, which, on a 2G network, a customer cannot even consume efficiently,” Dutt said.Featurephone hardware is standardised, but there is no content that customers can consume on it, he said. “For a 30% lower price, we are giving this customer live TV with 450+ channels, latest films, thousands of songs, IPL streaming, and a whole lot of other content,” Dutt said.He added that Jio has even introduced UPI payments with a scan-and-pay option. “A lot of merchants are spending an additional rental for the sound box, but we have included this in JioBharat phones.”

The JioBharat platform has four models, with more planned for later this year. “We are already finalising the range that will come in the next fiscal year, the phones could come in different sizes, form factors, or colours.”

While the JioBharat platform is aimed at pushing 2G users into the 4G ecosystem, the 5G rollout is a priority area too and not a backup option. But the device ecosystem has not been able to break into the sub-?10,000 price point to drive volumes, said the Jio executive.

“A lot of them (smartphone brands) have different issues to deal with, which sort of clouded their priorities. But we are now working with the brands to ensure people get great 5G experiences,” Dutt said.

Aside from working on its own 5G device, Jio is advising smartphone brands on what they need to have in terms of the standalone stack on their devices. “It’s more to do with how we can work together to bring a better value proposition for the customer,” Dutt said.


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