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Jio’s 4G Feature Phone Yet To Ring The Right Tone In Rural Markets
- May 10, 2018 -


  1. Jio’s 4G feature phone yet to ring the right tone in rural markets

Jio’s 4G feature phone yet to ring the right tone in rural markets

It seems that Reliance Jio’s 4G feature phone – JioPhone – has clicked only in the urban areas and not in the rural market.



reliance jio, telecom sector, telecom industry, traiData released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) show that of the total 160.09 million subscribers Jio had in calendar 2017. (Reuters)


It seems that Reliance Jio’s 4G feature phone – JioPhone – has clicked only in the urban areas and not in the rural market.

Data released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) show that of the total 160.09 million subscribers Jio had in calendar 2017, only 41.08 million users were from rural areas. This means that only 25.66% of users of Jio are from the rural market.

In contrast, incumbent operators have a much higher proportion of rural subscribers. Vodafone India tops the chart with a proportion of 54.06%, followed by Idea Cellular at 53.97%, and Bharti Airtel at 50.98%.
To some extent, the initial low proportion of rural subscribers for Jio can be understood because it had come with only 4G services, which meant that a user wanting to switch to its services would have to have a 4G compliant phone.

The incumbents offered 2G as well as 3G services, which meant that if a rural 2G Vodafone consumer wanted to switch to Bharti Airtel all he had to do was get a new Sim card but in case of switching to Jio would have needed a new handset also. Since a basic 4G phone came for not less than `3,000 it was difficult for Jio to gross high rural subscribers.

However, last year it came out with a 4G feature phone, JioPhone, which comes for `1,500. The phone is a huge success meaning that it has emerged as a market leader in the feature phone market. But it seems that its success is more in urban areas.

The reasons are not difficult to fathom. Though the Jio phone comes with a refundable deposit of `1,500 it initially required a consumer to recharge the phone for a minimum `153 every month for three years to be eligible for a refund. Mostly feature phones used in rural areas come for less than `1,000 and the minimum recharge offered by incumbents is as low as `10, so the minimum recharge of `153 is seen as high for such markets.

To counter this obstacle, Jio in January slashed the minimum monthly recharge amount to `49. IDC India’s associate research director Navkender Singh said, “Many in rural areas have not been very enthused about paying Rs 1,500 for three years, when they can talk on a normal feature phone, which is almost half the price of a 4G feature phone.”

Counterpoint Research Associate director Tarun Pathak also had a similar take. “Some sales have happened in rural areas as well, but not as compared to urban. Among other factors, this can also be that in the beginning promotions and marketing was more focused on urban India,” he said.

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