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Foxconn Technology may make 4G feature phones for Reliance Jio

Surajeet Das Gupta & T E Narasimhan/New Delhi/Chennai 18 Jul 17 | 02:49 AM

Reliance Jio, which is all set to launch its game-changing 4G feature phones, is in talks with Taiwanese Foxconn Technology Group, the world's largest contract manufacturer of mobile phones, to make them in India.

The Reliance Jio feature phones are being imported for now but the company, which has designed these models in-house, plans to have them manufactured in India, expecting substantial volumes and cost-effectiveness. This will also be in line with the government’s ‘Make in India’ policy.

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Sources said Reliance Jio was expecting over 100 million customers for its 4G feature phones in the first 12 months. The company now has over 115 million subscribers.  

A Reliance Jio spokesperson did not respond to an email query. A spokesperson for the Foxconn Technology Group said, "The company follows a policy of not commenting on any matters related to current, past or potential customers." 

The new 4G phones will have all the features customers seek when using data but will be cheaper than smartphones. These include live TV and video and voice facilities. But instead of a touch screen, these will have keypads. 

Sources said the design as well as the operating system for the phones had been put together by Reliance Jio’s in-house team. 

The feature phones are expected to be locked to the Reliance Jio SIM, making them worthless in rival networks. 

Analysts said the phones will be sold at Rs 500 but they expect the handsets to be  bundled with services.

There are over 600 million feature phone users in the country who mostly use them for voice calls. It is this market that Reliance Jio is trying to convert to 4G customers. 

Feature phone customers spend an average Rs 150 per month on their mobile bills and cannot afford smartphones priced above Rs 3,500. A bundled offering with a handset could be a major draw for Reliance Jio. Feature phones using 4G cost $22-24 in the international market and India has a 10 per cent import duty on them. If the handsets were manufactured in India, they could cost $2-4 less and avoid the duty, said functionaries of the Indian Cellular Association. Only Lava has a 4G feature phone but it is priced over Rs 3,000.

Foxconn manufactures handsets in the Sri City plant in Andhra Pradesh. 

It has tied up with Xiaomi to manufacture its range of handsets. The Chinese handset manufacturer had in March announced a second unit would be set up in Sri City in order to meet growing demand. 

About 95 per cent of the company's mobile phones are manufactured in India. 

Foxconn also works with Gionee, which had made a proposal to the Tamil Nadu government a few years ago for reviving the shut Nokia plant in the state but there has been no action on this.

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