Just a little over two months ago, Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio emerged as the top bidder in India’s 5G spectrum auction that spanned seven days with 40 rounds, acquiring 24,740 MHz spectrum worth Rs 88,078 crore.
Jio also aggressively bid for the crucial 700 MHz bands which could give it an edge over its rivals.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the 5G telephony services in the country, the same day, Ambani announced Jio will launch affordable 5G services and cover every “nook and corner of the country by December 2023,” adding that Jio will offer "the highest quality and most affordable rates than anyone else has in the world."
With the 700 MHz bands, Reliance indeed has the arsenal for stable and faster 5G connectivity, even in dense areas such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, etc.
But Jio is not just competing with Telco rivals, it’s gradually also taking on the smartphone makers with its ultra-cheap feature phone the – JioPhone.
Last year, the company launched JioPhone Next, priced aggressively at Rs 6,499.
At this price range, even the most established smartphone makers struggle to offer a decent device. But Reliance has enough might to do that.
JioBook Before JioPhone Next
Just when people were expecting the launch of its ultra-affordable 5G smartphone JioPhone Next, which the company announced at its AGM 2022, reports suggest that the company is reportedly set to launch a budget laptop priced at Rs 15,000 with an embedded 4G sim card.
Jio has partnered with global giants Qualcomm and Microsoft for the JioBook, with the former powering its computing chips based on technology from Arm Ltd, and the Windows OS maker providing support for some apps.
"This will be as big as JioPhone," the report cited a person familiar with the matter as saying.
The JioBook will be produced locally by contract manufacturer Flex with the company aiming to sell "hundreds of thousands" of units by March, the Reuters report said.
The laptop will run Jio's own JioOS operating system and apps can be downloaded from the JioStore. Jio is also pitching the laptop as an alternative to tablets for corporate employees.
Overall PC shipments in India stood at 14.8 million units last year, led by HP, Dell and Lenovo, according to research firm IDC.
The launch of the JioBook will extend the total addressable laptop market segment by at least 15%, Counterpoint analyst Tarun Pathak said.
JioBook is likely to be ARM-based and run Windows 10. As per some leaks, it may feature a Snapdragon 665 chipset paired with 2GB RAM. An LCD display with a resolution of 1366x768 pixels is likely to feature on the JioBook. The upcoming laptop is tipped to be powered by a Qualcomm chipset that will be coupled with 2GB of LPDDR4X RAM and 32GB of storage. There could be a variant with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. While some reports suggest that the JioBook will run a forked version of Android OS, others suggest that it could run the Windows 10 operating system by Microsoft instead.
It would not be wrong to say that the company may have to cut corners here and there to keep the cost low, that said, Jio indeed has achieved a good feat with its ultra-cheap smartphone but it remains to be seen if its laptop would prove to be a game changer.
One advantage that Jio has is there is negligible competition in the budget laptop range and there aren’t many options for people either.
The likes of Dell, Lenovo, Asus, Realme, Xoami, etc. have their offering mostly starting from Rs 30,000.
Jio has picked a sweet spot but looking at the specification, it doesn’t look like the laptop from Jio would attract buyers looking for a performance-centric device, and it looks like Jio isn’t aiming for those set of customers either, analysts said.
There are plenty of students and people looking for a low-budget device that can just get the job done, and Reliance has already tested the waters with its JioPhone which has been pretty much a success for the company.
With the embedded 4G sim card in its JioBook, Reliance would have more customers using its network services.
That said, it will be a big boost for Reliance with people using JioPhone and JioBook connected over the Jio network.
How 5G-Enabled JioPhone’s Success Be Defined?
Jio launched its ultra low-budget JioPhone in 2017. The 4G feature phone accounted for almost half of the country’s overall feature phone shipments from April-June 2018, according to Counterpoint Research.
JioPhone’s shipments during the quarter stood at 47 per cent of the overall domestic feature phone shipments, Counterpoint data showed. Jio was followed by Samsung (9 per cent), and Nokia HMD (8 per cent), among others.
Jio’s strategy of a pan-India 4G network with deeply discounted tariff plans and an almost free VoLTE-enabled phone is aiding it in expanding influence in small towns and villages, which is something rival incumbents have not been able to effectively counter, the report cited analysts as saying.
According to the report, almost 50 per cent of new subscriber additions on Jio’s network were coming from JioPhone when the price of the 4G feature phone was slashed from Rs 1,500 to Rs 501.
In 2021, Jio unveiled its first smartphone –JioPhone Next, in partnership with Google. The phone, priced at Rs 6,499, became India's top-selling sub-Rs 10,000 smartphones, accounting for a fifth of the market over the last three quarters, according to research firm Counterpoint.
Just like the success of the JioPhone Next was gauged by how many new 4G users it brought into Jio’s mobile networks, the 5G-enabled JioPhone would be crucial for the company as it can bring more people looking to experience the next generation of mobile networks.
However, unlike its other devices, Jio’s 5G-enabled smartphone has several competitors from rival smartphone makers. The new device can prove helpful in increasing the 5G user base of Jio.
The new JioPhone will reportedly cost around Rs 12,000, and there are plenty of 5G-ready phones in the price range, so, the price would not be the only decider for Jio’s new phone. Thus, it remains to be seen how Jio would sweeten the deal to attract more people.