In­dia’s Am­bani to launch free smart­phone, shakes up tele­coms

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

MUM­BAI: In­dia’s richest man Mukesh Am­bani said Fri­day that his tele­coms ven­ture Jio would launch a free smart­phone, es­ca­lat­ing a price war that is shak­ing up the coun­try’s ul­tra-com­pet­i­tive mo­bile mar­ket. The an­nounce­ment, made at a bois­ter­ous Re­liance In­dus­tries an­nual gen­eral meet­ing in Mum­bai, sent shares in ri­val tele­coms op­er­a­tor Bharti Air­tel plum­met­ing al­most six per­cent. “This break­through and rev­o­lu­tion­ary de­vice named Jio­Phone, along with Jio’s dis­rup­tive tar­iff, will un­leash the power of dig­i­tal life in the hands of 1.3 bil­lion cit­i­zens of the largest democ­racy in the world,” said Am­bani.

The ty­coon told share­hold­ers and staff, who reg­u­larly burst into chants of “Jio, Jio, Jio”, that the phone, the lat­est en­try into In­dia’s crowded mar­ket, would be avail­able from Septem­ber. He said cus­tomers would only have to pay a de­posit of 1,500 ru­pees ($23.32) for the 4G-en­abled de­vice, which would be fully re­fund­able af­ter three years. The an­nounce­ment comes al­most a year af­ter Am­bani launched the Re­liance Jio 4G net­work with free voice calls for life and vastly cheaper data plans, forc­ing ri­vals to dra­mat­i­cally slash their tar­iffs.

Jio has signed up 125 mil­lion sub­scribers since its launch in Septem­ber 2016, caus­ing a rush to con­sol­i­da­tion in the multi-bil­lion-dol­lar sec­tor as com­peti­tors scram­ble to match its deep pock­ets. Bri­tish mo­bile phone gi­ant Voda­fone is merg­ing its In­dian unit with Idea Cellular to help fend off Jio, which is backed by Re­liance In­dus­tries-In­dia’s im­mensely wealthy en­ergy-to-chem­i­cals con­glom­er­ate headed by Am­bani.

Bharti Air­tel and Idea Cellular have en­dured losses since Jio’s ar­rival and shares in the com­pa­nies fell nearly three per­cent and six per­cent re­spec­tively fol­low­ing Am­bani’s an­nounce­ment Fri­day. Re­liance rose three per­cent. The news will have also been care­fully watched by South Korean tech gi­ant Sam­sung and Chi­nese mo­bile phone maker Xiaomi who pos­sess the lion’s share of In­dia’s smart­phone mar­ket. Sam­sung leads the mar­ket with 28 per­cent while nearly 14 per­cent of phones sold in In­dia are made by Xiaomi, ac­cord­ing to a study by the In­ter­na­tional Data Cor­po­ra­tion, an IT re­search firm. —AFP

MUM­BAI: In­dia’s richest man and oil-to-tele­com con­glom­er­ate Re­liance In­dus­tries chair­man Mukesh Am­bani, right, and his wife Nita Am­bani (2R) pose with their chil­dren (L-C) Akash Am­bani, Anant Am­bani and Isha Am­bani as they ar­rive for the com­pany’s 40th AGM in Mum­bai. —AFP

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