The share of 4G-enabled phones in the overall smartphone sales in India has zoomed to 62% in January from 11% a year ago, Reliance Jio said while briefing analysts about its fourth-quarter results.
In the Rs 8,000-plus category, 95% of the smartphones come with 4G LTE, the operator said.
Jio had been criticized for going with an all-IP, 4G-only network design by those who felt that the 4G device ecosystem will not be ready in time for the company’s launch.
At the beginning of 2015-16, Idea Cellular CEO Himanshu Kapania had said that his company would not be committing any “meaningful capital expenditure” on launch 4G services in India during the year as the device and equipment ecosystem would not be ready. (Note: Idea started a big effort to deploy 4G networks six months later.)
4G handset prices started crashing at the beginning of 2015, starting with Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 4G, which brought 4G prices below the Rs 10,000 mark for the first time. It was followed by Lenovo’s A6000, which brought it down even more to Rs 6,999.
By October, Phicomm, a China-based player, was offering a 4G phone with a 5-inch HD display, 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage for an incredible Rs 3,999 on Amazon. It also offered a full-HD, 2 GB-RAM and 16 GB of storage for Rs 6,999.
Not surprisingly, in the very same month, the number of 4G handsets sold in India overtook the number of 3G handsets, thus growing from 11% to 50% in a matter of nine months.
According to Jio, the average selling price of LTE smartphones has declined from Rs 25,000 a year ago to about Rs 10,000 now.
The unprecedented and unexpected growth of 4G handsets in India was a great blessing for Reliance Jio’s parent, whose first telecom venture using CDMA technology faced huge hurdles as devices based on the proprietary technology did not take off, not least because of restrictive licensing terms by the technology owner.
However, LTE — being an industry standard — has been spared the same licensing pains and has therefore grown in leaps and bounds.
According to Reliance Jio, close to 5 cr 4G handsets are already in the hands of Indian consumers — a market waiting to be tapped.
“Almost all new launches are LTE enabled,” Jio said. “100% models of Samsung, Apple and LG
support VoLTE and a large portfolio of Micromax, Lava and more thann 20 other brands have also shifted,” it said.
Afraid that the handset market may not be ready, Jio had initiated moves to get cheap 4G handsets into India.
It is estimated to have about 5 million LYF-branded 4G handsets already imported to the country. According to rumors and reports, Jio will start selling these LYF handsets with bundled 4G connections over the next 7-10 days.
Jio’s partner, Reliance Communications, will start activating 4G SIM cards by May 4. 4G SIM cards will be available in Reliance Mobile Stores before that.