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Jio unsure of Google partnership for launch of affordable 5G phone

Reliance Jio is reviewing its strategy for launching the affordable 5G phone in partnership with Google, announced last year.

According to sources, Jio is on the fence over whether it will launch the 5G phone in collaboration with Google or on its own.

On August 29, 2022, Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani announced plans to introduce an affordable 5G handset in collaboration with Google, during the company’s annual general meeting. This was among a slew of 5G applications and 5G-enabled devices that were in the works, according to Reliance, including a 5G cloud computer and Jio Air Fiber.

Given Jio’s success in growing its wireline broadband business recently, its plans for high-speed home broadband solutions through wireless 5G are on track. However, there is little clarity over other 5G applications, especially the affordable 5G phone.

Familiar playbook
An affordable handset to drive adoption has always been a part of Reliance Jio’s playbook. When it entered the telecommunications sector in 2016, it launched its 4G network alongside its VoLTE 4G device, playing a key role in addressing the economic gap in the 4G handset market.

Selling over 100 million devices, the launch was an undisputed success story. Subsequent iterations of the phones have not done so well — however, Reliance Jio’ did push competitors to build affordable entry-level devices.

It is only to be expected that Jio may want to replicate the same business model for 5G smartphone users as well. Jio is expected to complete its nationwide 5G network by the end of this year. But for now, the mood appears to be one of “wait and watch”. If the firm believes there is a market gap for the 5G phone, then it will launch the device, but not this year, according to sources, as Jio’s 5G network may not be widely available by then.

The price factor
5G is an expensive network rollout, and the best way to monetise is through high-value subscribers, as more complex high-data applications are developed for the network. India has over 200 million telecom subscribers who are still on 2G services; affordable 5G currently appears to be a long shot.

For now, Reliance Jio is sticking to what it knows best. Last month, it launched another affordable 4G-enabled device — a feature phone priced Rs 999, which aims to transition the mass of 2G users onto the 4G network. The Hindu BusinessLine

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