scorecardJioPhone Next is the new weapon in Ambani’s arsenal as he takes aim at the 500 million subscriber mark
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JioPhone Next is the new weapon in Ambani’s arsenal as he takes aim at the 500 million subscriber mark

JioPhone Next is the new weapon in Ambani’s arsenal as he takes aim at the 500 million subscriber mark
Business3 min read
  • JioPhone Next is an upcoming entry-level smartphone from Jio, developed in partnership with Google.
  • The launch of JioPhone Next could help the Mukesh Ambani-led telecom giant cross the 500 million subscriber mark.
  • Apart from this, reports also suggest that Jio has partnered with Xiaomi, Samsung, Vivo, among others to sell SIM-locked smartphones at subsidised prices.
India’s leading telecom company Jio is all set to launch the JioPhone Next on September 10. Analysts think it augurs well for the Mukesh Ambani-led company as it looks to take an even bigger lead over rivals Airtel and Vodafone Idea (Vi).

Reliance Jio is the leading telecom player in India in terms of total subscribers – it currently has 437 million subscribers, while its closest rival, Airtel, has 352 million.

However, in terms of active subscribers, Jio’s count comes in at 340 million, compared to Airtel’s 343 million. That is an active subscriber rate of 78%, a far cry from Airtel’s 97.6%.

Analysts suggest that the JioPhone Next is the company’s attempt to surge past the 500-million subscriber mark. Airtel and Vodafone Idea together have approximately 300 million 2G subscribers, and converting them to 4G is the low-hanging fruit that is ripe for the picking.

JioPhone Next launching this week

While the JioPhone devices so far have been feature phones offering 4G connectivity, the JioPhone Next is an entry-level smartphone, offering many of the features that you would usually expect from a mainstream smartphone from companies like Xiaomi, Realme and others.

The JioPhone Next smartphone has been developed in partnership with Android-maker Google, and it is scheduled to launch on September 10.

“We think the strategy is aimed at increasing market reach, as Jio seeks to incentivize the 300m 2G subscribers of other telcos and the existing JioPhone users to upgrade to ‘JioPhone Next’,” said a report by UBS Global Research dated August 27.

While market penetration is an obvious reason, the JioPhone Next should also help Jio push existing JioPhone users to upgrade to the affordable smartphone. This should likely help the company augment its average revenue per user (ARPU), which has stagnated at ₹138.

Jio SIM-locked smartphones coming soon

Jio is also reportedly pursuing another aggressive strategy to expand its subscriber base. According to a report by ET Telecom, Jio has teamed up with leading smartphone makers Xiaomi, Samsung, Oppo, Vivo and HMD Global, among others, to sell Jio SIM-locked smartphones.

To clarify, SIM-locked smartphones will prevent users from using the phone with a SIM card from another telco. So, if you buy a SIM-locked smartphone from Jio, you will not be able to pop in an Airtel SIM card.

The report further adds that these SIM-locked smartphones will be subsidised by Jio. It would seem that the company is borrowing a leaf out of the playbook of the US carriers, who sell SIM-locked smartphones at cheaper rates to keep their subscribers locked to their network.

To be clear, SIM-locked phones are not new, but they have been rare since the phasing out of CDMA technology. It will be interesting to see if Jio’s move will find favour with subscribers or not.


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