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Jio-Apple strike a win-win deal as Airtel plans aggressive 4G offer

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MUMBAI: Even as Reliance Jio is giving a tough fight to the market leader Airtel, and other leading incumbent operators Vodafone and Idea, it is making significant tie-ups with cell-phone makers to up its 4G gameplan. Substantial investments are being made in high-speed telecom networks in India, said Apple CEO Tim Cook citing Reliance Jio's 4G roll-out although he admitted its smartphone has "not done as well" in the country.

Airtel meantime is reportedly planning to launch aggressive 4G bundled offers to take on Reliance Jio as India’s No 1 mobile carrier struggles to boost penetration and revive its slowing data revenue growth amid competition. Bharti Airtel managing director - India & South Asia Gopal Vittal agreed that it’s difficult to compete with a free services offer as it expects Jio’s full-fledged price launch to take place in December. Vittal said it will approach the regulator to clear any confusion over interconnection points (PoIs) as it has provided more PoIs to Jio than any other telco.

Reliance Jio was the first of its kind all-IP network in India with 4G coverage in 18,000 cities and 200,000 villages, Cook said in the company's fourth quarter earnings call. He said Apple is partnering with Reliance Jio, which is offering a free year of service to purchasers of new iPhones, to ensure "great iPhone performance" on their network. "Our iPhone sales in India were up over 50 per cent in fiscal 2016 compared to the prior year, and we believe we're just beginning to scratch the surface of this large and growing market opportunity," Cook said.

He, however, noted that Apple's smartphone has "not done as well" in India in general and one of the key reasons for that is the "(high-speed telecom networks) infrastructure hasn't been there". The Apple head was optimistic on the efforts being made by the Narendra Modi-led government to create jobs and develop infrastructure.

Whether India could in future be as big of an opportunity as China for Apple, Cook said it is important to look not only at per capita income in India but also the number of people that are or will move into the middle class over the next decade. He said this class will "really want a smartphone, and I think we can compete well for some percentage of those.

"I think it's clear that the population of India will exceed China sometime in probably the next decade or so. I think it will take longer for the GDP to rival it, but that's not critical for us to have a great success there," he said.

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