India's Reliance to develop 'ultra-affordable' smartphone with Google in $25 billion 5G push

It also announced its collaboration with Meta to launch JioMart shopping on WhatsApp, a global first



Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

By Reuters

Published: Mon 29 Aug 2022, 5:26 PM

India's telecom leader Reliance said on Monday it is working with Alphabet Inc's Google to launch a budget 5G phone as it laid out a $25 billion plan for introducing the next-generation wireless services within two months.

Speaking at the company's annual general meeting, Reliance Chairman Mukesh Ambani said Jio's 5G network will be the world's largest, launching in main cities including New Delhi and Mumbai before being expanded across India by December next year. "Jio has prepared an ambitious 5G roll-out plan," the billionaire tycoon said, adding that the phone being developed with Google would be "ultra-affordable".

5G data speeds in India are expected to be about 10 times faster than those of 4G, with the network seen as vital for emerging technologies like self-driving cars and artificial intelligence.

Reliance's 5G plans throw down the gauntlet to rivals Bharti Airtel and Vodafone-Idea in the world's second biggest mobile market.

Jio, India's biggest mobile carrier with more than 420 million customers, snapped up airwaves worth $11 billion in a $19 billion 5G spectrum auction earlier this month.

The aggressive 5G strategy builds on Jio's playbook of disrupting India's telecoms market having sparked a price war in 2016 when it launched cheap 4G data plans and free voice services, and later a 4G smartphone costing just $81, again in partnership with Google.

Reliance said it would partner with Qualcomm Inc to provide cloud-based 5G network solutions for businesses, and with Meta Platform Inc for its JioMart shopping integration on WhatsApp.

First-ever end-to-end shopping experience on WhatsApp

A global first, JioMart on WhatsApp will enable users in India, including those who have never shopped online before, to seamlessly browse through JioMart’s entire grocery catalog, add items to cart, and make the payment to complete the purchase – all without leaving the WhatsApp chat.

Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO, Meta, said in a Facebook post, "Excited to launch our partnership with JioMart in India. This is our first-ever end-to-end shopping experience on WhatsApp -- people can now buy groceries from JioMart right in a chat. Business messaging is an area with real momentum and chat-based experiences like this will be the go-to way people and businesses communicate in the years to come."

Ambani added, “Our vision is to propel India as the world’s leading digital society. When Jio platforms and Meta announced our partnership in 2020, Mark and I shared a vision of bringing more people and businesses online and creating truly innovative solutions that will add convenience to the daily lives of every Indian... The JioMart on WhatsApp experience furthers our commitment of enabling a simple and convenient way of online shopping to millions of Indians.”

The launch is part of a strategic partnership between Meta and Jio Platforms to accelerate India’s digital transformation and provide people and businesses of all sizes opportunities to connect in new ways and fuel economic growth in the country.

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