Looking to take on Reliance Jio in the handset space, the country's top telecom operator, Bharti Airtel, has partnered Karbonn Mobiles to offer a 4G smartphone at an "effective price" of Rs 1,399.
In a dig at Jio's Rs 1,500 4G-enabled feature phone, the Sunil Bharti Mittal-led company said its smartphone would be made available for the price of a feature phone. Airtel said this was the first of several partnerships it plans with handset manufacturers to bring affordable bundled 4G smartphone options to its customers.
In July, Jio had announced a 4G feature phone for a security deposit of Rs 1,500, returnable at the end of three years for a full refund, making the device virtually free for consumers.
"A customer needs to make a down-payment of Rs 2,899 for the 4G smartphone and make 36 continuous monthly recharges of Rs 169 each. The customer will get a cash refund of Rs 500 after 18 months and another Rs 1,000 after 36 months, taking the total cash benefit to Rs 1,500," the Airtel statement said, explaining its claim of Rs 1,399 "effective pricing". In case a customer does not wish for the Rs 169 bundled plan, recharges of any denomination and validity can be done, but for a refund, recharges worth Rs 3,000 must be done within the first 18 months (for first refund of Rs 500) and another Rs 3,000 over the next 18 months (for the second refund of Rs 1,000). A consumer will not need to return the handset to Airtel or Karbonn at any point to claim refund. The Android-based 4G smartphone, Karbonn A40 Indian, has dual SIM slots and popular apps.
Since Jio announced its handsets, old telcos have forged partnerships with device makers. Airtel was doing bundling offers with various handset players as also Vodafone and Idea Cellular.
However, things heated up when Jio announced the launch its feature phone, targeted at the 500 million customers primarily in rural areas. The move by Jio was aimed at giving 4G connectivity at the price of a 2G feature phone.
"We plan to partner with multiple manufacturers to bring affordable smartphone options to the market and build an open ecosystem of low-cost devices," Raj Pudipeddi, director, consumer business and chief marketing officer, Bharti Airtel, said.
• Airtel has partnered Karbonn Mobiles to offer a 4G smartphone at an "effective price" Rs 1,399
• In July, Jio announced a 4G feature phone for a security deposit of Rs 1,500, returnable at the end of three years for a full refund