India’s Reliance unveils Jio Phone costing Rs. 0

Mukesh Ambani, CEO of India’s Telecom provider Reliance Jio today announced at its Reliance AGM event, the launch of the Jio Phone, a feature phone available basically for free. A refundable security deposit of ₹1,500 would be levied with the phone for a period of 3 years.

The feature phone comes with a 240 x 320 screen much reminiscent of similar phones from the past decade. It seems clear that Jio is targeting price-sensitive consumers with this scheme. The data tariff plans available with the phone start from ₹153 per month and allow Jio’s staple of unlimited voice calls and SMSes to be sent, with similar weekly and daily plans available for ₹54 and₹24 as well respectively. The phone is expected to be available from August 15 to coincide with India’s 60th year of Independence.

Mukesh Ambani said at the live event “One, the Jio Phone voice will always be free. Second, the 50 crore feature phone users don’t even have access to basic internet. I believe today every young Indian should have access to information at his fingertips and that is what the Jio Phone enables.” The statements were meted out with huge applause from the audience.

In a rather unusual feature for a phone of this type, Ambani has promised that users will be able to connect their phones to any TV set to stream Jio Content on the bigger screens. This isn’t just restricted to Smart TVs but will support older TVs as well, a move that is sure to be welcome by the hoards of masses who don’t have access to a smart TV yet.

Jio previously disrupted the Indian Telecom market with its unlimited voice and data plans that lasted for the first six months, helping it establish a healthy subscriber base of over 100 million users and giving heavy competition to incumbent Telecom providers Airtel, Vodafone and Idea forcing them to drop their rates. It is targeting a supply of 5 million phones every week. Jio has successfully built on the price-sensitive mindset of Indian customers and with the average life-cycle of a phone being 2-3 years these days, it may be on to something different with its 3-year security deposit scheme.