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To bolster its position in 4G market ahead of launch of services by rival Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel plans to open 1,000 more company-owned stores by December for to provide customers first-hand experience about its service as well as offer low-priced handsets.
According to sources, Airtel is in advanced talks with handsets makers such as Samsung, ZTE, Huawei and Xiaomi to launch 4G devices, with price starting from Rs 4,000, later this year. A source aware of the plan said the company is expanding its distribution network by adding more company-owned company operated (coco) retail outlets in a bid to provide first hand experience to customers and also make available affordable 4G dual mode handsets.
"Airtel has 300 coco stores and the company will add 1000 stores by December 2015 (500 by September, additional 500 by December)," the source said. The addition of coco stores to its distribution channel will enhance the reach of Airtel to the prospective users. No comments were received from the company in this regard.
The distribution channel of Airtel is spread across 1.5 million outlets with network presence in 5,121 census and 464,045 non-census towns and villages in the country covering approximately 86.8 per cent of the population as on March 2015. Airtel is the only mobile operator in India to offer 4G services in over 45 cities using TD-LTE & FDD-LTE technology. The telco had launched India's first 4G services in Kolkata around 3 years ago.
Billionaire Mukesh Ambani, who owns Reliance Jio Infocomm, will re-enter the telecom business with a Rs 4,000 4G smartphone by December, offering voice and data services for as low as Rs 300-500 per month. Reliance Jio, which will commercially launch 4G services by December, has the largest footprint of liberalised spectrum in the country. In 2003, Reliance launched mobile phones for Rs 500 which led to immediate jump in its subscriber base.