Reliance Industries launched on Friday a keenly anticipated phone with 4G-enabled features that it said will be “zero cost”, in a move aimed at further disrupting the country’s highly competitive telecoms sector.
Through the new phone, India’s most valuable company is attempting to woo tens of millions of low-income users to its upstart telecoms venture Jio, which has already upended the telecoms industry in the country by offering cut-rate prices on its services.
Buyers will be able to get the new device, named JioPhone, for a one-time refundable security deposit of 1,500 rupees ($23.32), Reliance chairman, billionaire Mukesh Ambani, said at the petrochemicals-to-retail conglomerate’s annual general meeting (AGM).
Voice calling will be free on the JioPhone, while unlimited data packs will cost 153 rupees a month on the device, Ambani said.
The phone will be available from August 15, India’s Independence Day, on a trial basis.
Reliance plans to make 5 million JioPhones available every week.
About 65 percent, or 500 million, devices in the Indian mobile phone ecosystem are so-called feature phones – that allow basic calling and texting, according to brokerage CLSA. These phones still outsell smartphones.
Jio calls its new device “India’s intelligent smartphone”.
The phone’s launch was widely anticipated as Ambani, India’s richest man, uses the company’s annual meeting to make key launch announcements. Jio was launched at last year’s AGM and now has more than 125 million customers.
Reliance shares traded 3.1 percent higher on Friday afternoon, while shares of rivals Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular fell 2.9 percent and 6.2 percent, respectively.
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