Bharti Airtel Planning to Introduce 4G VoLTE Enabled Affordable Smartphone to Boost ARPU

According to a new report spotted online, Sunil Bharti Mittal led telco, Bharti Airtel might be on to new plans to convert its already existing 2G subscriber base into 4G subscribers with the help of a new 4G smartphone. This move is similar and in line to what Reliance Jio did in its bid to increase the number of subscribers. To recall, Reliance Jio had launched a very affordably priced JioPhone, a feature phone with 4G connectivity which appealed to a lot of buyers out there. However, Airtel will be taking a different path and won’t introduce a feature phone but instead will be introducing an affordably priced smartphone. Also, to recall, this would not be the first time that Airtel introduces a cheaply priced smartphone. Last year, the private telecom operator had partnered up with Karbonn to launch the A40 smartphone priced at Rs 1,399 which is as affordable as the JioPhone.

airtel-affordable-4g-volte-smartphone

Bharti Airtel 4G Smartphone Price

According to a Financial Express report, a senior Bharti Airtel officer informed that the company is in talks with many manufacturers to come up with a 4G VoLTE compatible handset. However, there is going to be a substantial difference between the way of Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, since unlike Reliance Jio which offers subsidies to its manufacturers, Airtel won’t be doing the same. Instead, the telecom operator will be offering cashbacks to lower the price of its 4G enabled smartphone.

As per the new report, we can expect the smartphone to be priced around the Rs 2,000 to Rs 2,500 price tag. However, combined with the cashback which Airtel will offer with its smartphone, the handset’s effective price is expected to remain in the sub Rs 2,000 range, making it similar in pricing to the last year’s device. More information is not available at the time of writing. However, it is pretty clear that this new smartphone by Airtel will cover pretty essential functions and will not ship any fancy hardware or design.

To have a hint about how Airtel’s cashback scheme would work, it is better to take a look at the cashback scheme of the previous Airtel device. Last time around, Airtel had priced its phone at Rs 2,899 and to redeem the cashback, the buyer had to make recharges of Rs 169 for 36 months. A cashback worth Rs 500 was guaranteed to the buyers after 18 months, and another of Rs 1,000 was guaranteed after successful recharges for 36 months, thus totalling the cashback benefits to Rs 1,500.

Airtel’s Aim Behind Introducing New 4G Smartphone

As of late, Bharti Airtel’s sole focus has been about improving its average revenue per user (ARPU), a key industry parameter among the telecom operator. On the other hand, Reliance Jio is the only telecom operator in the country to boast of a massive 4G VoLTE network at its disposal. Bogged down by the intense tariff war which was kickstarted by the Mukesh Ambani led telco two years ago, Airtel had to climb its way back into the competition. Soon after the tariff war, the wave of consolidation left only three major players in the field, Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.

As per the trend spotted by the operator, and the number of smartphone users growing from 2% to 4%, there is no confusion that the telco wants to capitalise on the opportunity. As per the company statement, it wishes to transition its 100 million 2G subscriber base to 4G thus bumping up its ARPU by Rs 30-40 a month. Also, in a similar move, the telecom operator introduced a minimum recharge of Rs 35 for all of its low-end 2G subscribers. Right now, Airtel has approximately 25-30% of its network on the VoLTE bands; the operator plans to take the number up to 50% by next year.

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Arpit spends his day closely following the telecom and tech industry. A music connoisseur and a night owl, he also takes a deep interest in the Indian technology start-up scene and spends rest of his time spilling poetry and stories on paper.

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