India's popular telecom service provider Bharti Airtel is now in discussion with handset makers to introduce a 4G smartphone in the market. Reportedly, the company will be releasing the handsets during the time of Diwali for about Rs. 2,500.
Further, the company will be bundling in large amounts of data and voice minutes with the device in order to counter Reliance Jio and at the same time retain a share of the mass market.
The 4G device will be co-promoted by Airtel and the handset maker but not it will not be subsidized by Airtel. Further, as per ET, the Telco has hinted that the handset will be based on the popular Android operating system and that it will allow users to download all apps available on the Google Play Store. An industry insider has stated that the smartphone to be launched by Airtel in partnership with a handset maker might be based on Android Go.
"Airtel is talking to some handset manufacturers to bring in a smartphone around Rs. 2,500, which will have a bigger screen, better camera and better battery performance than what a feature phone could offer," a senior industry executive has stated. "Discussions are at a very advanced stage," the person added.
Interestingly, handset makers Lava and Karbonn seems to be also in separate talks with the telecom operator for a mass-market 4G smartphone. However, spokespersons at Karbonn and Lava have declined to comment.
Besides, it looks like Airtel is now coming up with a new strategy (a 4G smartphone with good specs at Rs. 2,500) that could potentially disrupt the market. Further, with bundled plans it could be that the smartphone along with data as well talk time benefits will successfully attract a consumer in the market.
Airtel would be able to generate additional sales without having to manage the end-to-end supply chain of making and selling smartphones.
Speaking on the matter, Navkendar Singh, senior analyst at International Data Corporation (IDC) India, cautioned that ensuring quality consumer experience on a 4G smartphone priced at Rs. 2,500 would remain a challenge.
On the other hand, the partnership with Airtel would be fruitful for smartphone brands as they will benefit from Airtel's large distribution and retail chain spread across the country.
All in all, the launch is expected to be around the end of September or in early October.