Image credit: Reliance Jio
Reliance’s digital arm, Jio Platforms, has unveiled a new mobile handset and associated tariff plans, the latest in a series of years-long efforts by India’s top telecom operator as it battles to convert users who remain “trapped” in the country’s legacy 2G network.
Named ‘Jio Bharat’, the Jio Platform’s 4G-enabled handset offers a host of modern features, including mobile payment capabilities with UPI, and access to Jio’s own on-demand video and music streaming services, JioCinema and JioSaavn. (Other specs include 48GB of memory, microSD card expandable storage support, 2-inch screen, and 0.3 VGA camera.)
The company said it will manufacture the Jio Bharat and also partner with other handset makers to adopt the Jio Bharat platform to build the handsets. Delhi-headquartered Karbonn has signed up to the platform, the billionaire Mukesh Ambani-led firm said in a statement.
Jio Bharat is priced at 999 Indian rupees, or $12.2, Reliance said. Jio Bharat is designed for 250 million consumers in India who have found the transition to the 4G network prohibitively expensive, the Indian giant said. The handset is part of the offer; the second piece is the new affordable tariff plan.
Jio Platform unveiled a new monthly plan costing just 123 Indian Rupees, or $1.5 which offers 14GB data usage for the month and unlimited voice calls. For those who subscribe for the year, the plan costs 1,234 Indian rupees, or $15.
Reliance said it will start offering Jio Bharat to consumers starting July 7 as part of a “beta trial.” It said the trial is being put in place to “ensure scalability” of platform and processes to upgrade “millions of feature phone users.”
“The new Jio Bharat phone is another step in that direction. It is at the center of innovation and it continues to demonstrate our focus on bringing disproportionate and true value to diverse segments of users with meaningful, real-world use cases,” Akash Ambani, chairman of Reliance Jio, said in a statement.
Jio Bharat is not Ambani’s first foray into the world of budget phones. Over the years, India’s richest man has launched several affordable phones. In late 2021, the company unveiled its first smartphone, called the JioPhone Next. The venture marked a significant partnership with Google, which provided an “extremely optimized” version of the Android mobile operating system to power the device.
“JioPhone Next is an affordable smartphone designed for India, inspired by the belief that everyone in India should benefit from the opportunities the internet creates,” Sundar Pichai said in 2021.
However, the $80 price tag attached to the JioPhone Next became a hindrance to the phone’s wider adoption.
Jio Bharat “could disrupt the 2G market and help Jio gain share after fading Jiophone devices,” JP Morgan said in a report on Tuesday.
“Bharti recently hiked 2G prices from Rs99 to Rs155 across all circles while We took this in one circle. This disruptive step could stop incremental tariff hikes for 2G and help JIO capture that segment. Jio had already gone aggressive by premium end March 23 through aggressive postpaid plans in addition to fiber pricing.”