Reliance Jio reportedly contemplating Google partnership for 5G smartphone

Jingyue Hsiao, DIGITIMES Asia, Taipei 0

Credit: AFP

Reliance Jio, India's largest wireless operator by subscribers, is reportedly considering launching a 5G phone on its own rather than collaborating with Google.

In 2021, Reliance Jio partnered with Google to launch an affordable 4G smartphone JioPhone Next, looking to encourage feature phone users to switch to smartphones and help drive ARPU for Jio. However, sources told Hindu BusinessLine that Jio was currently undecided about whether to release the 5G smartphone in partnership with Google or as an independent launch.

Jio is known for its business model of offering ultra-cheap phones along with affordable data plans to woo new subscribers. The first generation of Jio's 4G feature phone, Jio Phone, was a success after its launch with over 100 million shipments accumulatively. However, the JioPhone Next, a 4G smartphone, did not succeed in capturing market interest partly due to the component shortage that led to smartphone inflation. IDC data shows that after JioPhone Next was launched in November 2021, Reliance Jio sold only about 1.43 million units in the world's second-largest smartphone market, where typically over 140 million smartphone shipments are sold each quarter.

Earlier in July, Jio launched its latest 4G feature phone Jio Bharat, priced at only INR999 (US$12), locked with Jio's SIM, and pre-installed Jio apps. Jefferies said in a report that Jio Bharat's attractive pricing and reasonable device quality are likely to drive adoption among existing feature phone users. Jefferies added that there would be an annual addressable market of 60-65 million users for Jio Bharat, with Jio to gain 55 million subscribers by March 2026.

Meanwhile, The Economic Times reported that Jio planned to complete its 5G network rollout nationwide by December 2023 and targeted 100-150 million 5G conversions by March 2024. Sources told Hindu BusinessLine that Jio would not rush to decide whether to go alone or collaborate with Google again as it takes time for Jio's 5G network to be widely available across India.