Pichai says Google-Jio affordable 5G phone a work in progress

affordable Google 5G phone
Image by Milkos | Bigstockphoto

Google’s chief executive officer Sundar Pichai said the company is focused on developing an affordable 5G smartphone with India’s Reliance Jio. The internet major is currently exploring new opportunities to deploy funds from its $10 billion India Digitisation Fund (IDF), Pichai said, adding that the company will comply with India’s new contentious IT rules.

“We are focused on building an affordable phone…we are committed to making progress on the project, and we are working with them (Jio),” the top executive said during a virtual conference with Asia Pacific media.

In July, Google and Jio entered into a commercial partnership to develop entry-level or low-cost 4G and 5G smartphones for India. The partnership is a part of Google’s investment of $4.5 billion in Jio Platforms for a 7.73% stake.

Jio will reportedly launch this 5G smartphone at around $35-$40 5G to acquire 200-300 new subscribers as it aims to increase its overall subscriber base to 600-700 million in coming years. 

The Mukesh Ambani-led telco, which has also claimed to have developed its own end-to-end 5G network stack, is expected to subsidise its 5G smartphone price in India.  Currently, 5G smartphones are available at a starting price of $240 in the country.

Pichai, however, didn’t share more information about the phone launch date or pricing.

India’s Economic Times recently reported that Jio might launch its affordable Android smartphone in the July-September quarter of the ongoing fiscal year. It added that both companies were planning to complete the development of the phone in the current quarter.

The phone development has been delayed due to the ongoing supply chain disruption and chip shortage globally, impacting India’s homebred players like Lava, Micromax and Karbonn.

Media reports added that if the disruption continues, Jio may launch the 5G phone at Reliance Industries Limited’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), which is usually held in August-September. Jio’s parent typically makes all big announcements related to services and products at its AGM.

In the meantime, Jio has decided to partner with companies like iTel and vivo to launch subsidised unlocked 4G smartphones for subscribers looking to upgrade from a feature phone. 

During the virtual conference, Pichai also said that Google would make new announcements related to its investment under the $10 billion India Digitisation Fund (IDF) later this year. The company had previously said that it would invest $10 billion over the next five to seven years to help accelerate the adoption of digital technologies in the country.

Pichai also said that Google would comply with India’s new IT rules for social media companies, which came into effect from Wednesday. The new IT rules will make companies like Google, Facebook, WhatsApp and other digital platforms more accountable and responsible for content hosted on their platform.

“It’s obviously early days, and our local teams are very engaged… we always respect local laws in every country we operate in, and we work constructively. We have clear transparency reports, when we comply with government requests, we highlight that in our transparency reports,” Pichai said.

Pichai, however, added that free and open internet is foundational. “As a company, we are very clear about the values of a free and open internet and the benefits it brings, and we advocate for it, and we engage constructively with regulators around the world, and we participate in these processes, I think it’s a part of how we learn,” he further added.

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