Reliance’s digital arm, Jio Platforms, has unveiled a new mobile handset and associated tariff plans, the latest in a series of years-long efforts from the top Indian telecom operator as it vies to convert users who remain “trapped” in the country’s legacy 2G networks.
Named “Jio Bharat,” the handset from Jio Platforms is 4G-enabled and offers a suite of modern features, including mobile payments capabilities with UPI, and access to Jio’s own on-demand video and music streaming services, JioCinema and JioSaavn.
The company said it will manufacture the Jio Bharat and also partner with other phone makers to adopt the Jio Bharat Platform to build the handsets. The Delhi-headquartered Karbonn has signed up to the platform, said the billionaire Mukesh Ambani-led firm in a statement.
The Jio Bharat is priced at 999 Indian rupees, or $12.2, Reliance said. The Jio Bharat is designed for 250 million consumers in India who have found the transition to 4G network prohibitively expensive, the Indian giant said. The handset is part of the offering; the other play is the new affordable tariff plan.
Jio Platform unveiled a new monthly plan that costs just 123 Indian rupees, or $1.5 that offers 14GB of data usage for the month and unlimited voice calls. For those subscribing for the year, the plan costs 1,234 Indian rupees, or $15.
Reliance said it will start offering the Jio Bharat to consumers starting July 7 as part of a “beta trial.” It said the trial is put in place to “ensure scalability” of platform and processes for upgrading “millions of feature phone users.”
“The new Jio Bharat phone is another step in that direction. It is at the centre of innovation, and it continues to demonstrate our focus on bringing disproportionate and true value for different segments of users with meaningful, real-life use cases,” said Akash Ambani, chairman at Reliance Jio, in a statement.
The Jio Bharat is not Ambani’s first foray into the world of budget handsets. Over the years, the India’s richest man has launched multiple affordable handsets. In late 2021, the company unveiled its inaugural smartphone, named the JioPhone Next. The venture marked a significant collaboration with Google, which provided an “extremely optimised” version of its Android mobile operating system to power the device.
“The JioPhone Next is an affordable smartphone designed for India, inspired by the belief that everyone in India should benefit from the opportunities the internet creates,” Sundar Pichai said in 2021.
However, the $80 price tag attached to the JioPhone Next became a hindrance to the phone’s broader uptake.