The era of handset bundling has returned in India and expanding at a faster pace than we anticipated.
After Reliance Jio introduced handset disruption by offering low-cost 4G VoLTE enabled handsets, Airtel too has jumped on the bandwagon, and have announced almost similar plans.
With Airtel and Jio being primary players now, handset bundling is witnessing a massive return in India.
Airtel Will Partner With Handset Makers For Low-Cost 4G Phones
During the call with analysts, Airtel announced two major developments:
By March 2018, they will launch nation-wide 4G VoLTE network
They will partner with handset manufacturers to offer low-cost 4G handsets, which would be bundled with various plans
However, Airtel has made it clear that they will not ‘subsidize’ the cost of the handset, but rather bundle it with more plans, in order to grab market share in this segment.
Gopal Vittal, chief executive and managing director of Airtel said, “We have no intention to get into subsidizing devices and running the inventory as if we own them. There is a difference between subsidizing and bundling. We have done that on the smartphone side for many years. We will continue to look at bundling,”
Vittal also indicated that 3G network will soon cease to exist in India, as 4G will be the force to reckon with.
Airtel’s plan seems quite a carbon copy of what Reliance Jio has done: Launch nation-wide 4G enabled VoLTE network, and then offer low-cost 4G bundled handsets.
This may trigger a new wave of bundled offers in the Indian telecom sector, from other layers as well. On some level, this is good news for Indian consumers, as bundled offers mean low-cost voice and data for all.
The Return of Bundled Era In Indian Telecom?
Reliance Communication, way back in 2003, introduced the concept of bundled plans when they launched low-cost handsets, which offers free calls and SMSes.
Later, telco players did introduce such bundled plans from time to time: Such as Airtel’s bundled offer with Micromax’s Canvas 2, wherein users got 1 GB per day for a year; or Vodafone’s bundled offer with Nokia 3, 5 and 6 handsets.
But these plans never become mainstream, until Jio arrived, with their latest bundled offer of free voice, free Internet and almost free handset.
Considering that both Airtel and Jio has now joined the bundled movement, it is only time when other players will too start offering similar plans.