Photo Courtesy: Micromax

In the Indian telecom industry, the “disruptive” entry of Reliance Jio is a great momentum behind the new-age telecom price war. Reliance Jio created a small wave in the telecom market by introducing its highly affordable voice and data-centric combo plans. Reliance Jio has changed the entire telecom industry with its affordable tariff plans and forced the other telecom giants to reduce their data and calling rates. If you don’t remember, Reliance Jio rolled out its services officially on 1 September 2016, and now it has already crossed over 100 million user base. A couple of weeks ago, Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio also announced their much-awaited 4G VoLTE-enabled feature phone, dubbed as “JioPhone” in India with an “effective price” of Rs. 0 (Zero). Yes, you read that right. Reliance Jio’s effectively free offering of low-cost 4G enabled VoLTE handset has triggered a new form of handset revolution in the Indian telecom sector, and now BSNL is the latest contender in this new-age telecom war.

To counter Reliance Jio’s JioPhone, other leading telecom operators including Airtel, BSNL, Idea Cellular are planning to launch a new 4G VoLTE feature phone in the Indian market. They have been trying really hard to come up with new strategies and aggressive plans to compete against the Reliance Jio, which has captured over 10 crore subscribers in a short period of time. As we reported earlier, Aditya Birla Group’s Idea Cellular is also planning to launch a new 4G enabled feature phone in the Indian market pretty soon. The upcoming Idea 4G VoLTE feature phone is expected to be priced at Rs. 2,500.

Earlier this month, Indian telecom giant Bharti Airtel also announced its partnership with Karbonn Mobiles to introduce a 4G-enabled smartphone, called the “Karbonn A40 Indian” in the Indian tech market at an ‘effective price’ of Rs. 1,399. To grab this smart feature phone, customers will need to make a down payment of Rs. 2,899 for the handset, and then make a minimum amount of recharges over three years to receive Rs. 1,500 cashbacks, giving the phone an ‘effective price’ of Rs. 1,399. The Karbonn A40 Indian 4G feature phone comes bundled with a separate plan at Rs 169 per month plan that offers unlimited voice calling and 0.5GB of high-speed data per day. Note that, customers will need to make recharges worth Rs. 3,000 in the first 18 months to get Rs. 500 cashback, and then make recharges worth Rs. 3,000 over the next 18 months to get Rs. 1,000 cashback, totaling Rs. 1500 cashback for the 3-year period.

However, home-grown handset manufacturer Micromax Informatics in a collaboration with State-owned telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) on Tuesday announced the launch of its latest 4G VoLTE feature phone, called the “Micromax Bharat 1” in the Indian market. Carried a sticker price of Rs. 2,200, the new Micromax 4G VoLTE feature phone will be made available in India starting October 20 via all leading retail outlets in Black colour option. With the launch of the Bharat 1, both Micromax and BSNL are aiming to target India’s 50 crore feature phone users in the country who have not been able to subscribe the 4G VoLTE network due to high costs associated only with smartphones. The Micromax and BSNL partnership will allow the users to experience low-cost data and enjoy unlimited voice calling facility and Internet services at just Rs. 97 per month. The BSNL Rs. 97 tariff plan offers unlimited voice calls, free roaming, unlimited SMS and data to its users. Micromax says Bharat 1 users can access live TV, music, movies, and videos via company’s Entertainment app as the device comes pre-loaded with Micromax entertainment apps.

The new feature phone also comes bundled with a BSNL SIM card, but like the JioPhone (which is currently restricted to the Jio network only), Bharat 1 is not restricted to BSNL’s network only, it can be used on any other network operator also including Airtel and Reliance Jio if they want to use 4G VoLTE services. Micromax co-founder Rahul Sharma said the “effective cost” of using the Micromax Bharat-1 will be Rs. 3,364 in the first year, compared to Rs. 3,336 on Jio Phone. But if a customer uses the respective devices for three years, Jio Phone would cost them Rs. 6,008, whereas the Micromax Bharat-1 would cost customers Rs. 5,692.

Photo Courtesy: Micromax

Technically speaking, the Micromax Bharat-1 feature phone comes equipped with a 2.4-inch QVGA TFT display with a screen resolution of 320×240 pixels. Under the hood, the device is powered by a latest 1.1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 205 dual-core processor coupled with Adreno 304 GPU to handle the graphics. In terms of memory, the feature phone is backed up by a 512 MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage, which can be further expanded via a dedicated microSD card slot. In terms of optics, the Micromax Bharat-1 features a 2-megapixel rear-facing camera and 0.3-megapixel (VGA) front-facing camera. On the connectivity front, the Bharat-1 is a dual-SIM feature phone that accepts two SIM cards- one for 4G LTE connectivity, and the other one for 2G connectivity. Apart from this, the phone also supports Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1 LE, GPS, and a microUSB 2.0 port.

Other features on the Bharat-1 include music/video player, FM Radio, Alphanumeric keypad, torchlight, a 3.5 mm headphone jack, internet browsing, ringtones, phone contact and much more. As we mentioned above, the phone also comes pre-loaded with Micromax entertainment apps, BHIM UPI payments app and BSNL’s wallet app for digital payment. The Micromax Bharat-1 also supports all languages including 22 major Indian languages. On the battery front, the handset sips its power from a decent 2,000mAh battery.

Commenting on the launch of the new feature phone, Rahul Sharma, Co-founder Micromax, said, “BSNL is one of the major service providers in the country and has a vast reach and network that spreads across every nook & corner of the country. Both Micromax and BSNL have been working with an aim to bring the next wave of unconnected users on the Internet. We will now take this vision forward with Bharat-1 and create a compelling proposition for the users that is a first in the category.”

On the other side, Anupam Srivastava, CMD, BSNL, said, “We are proud that we are partnering with Micromax, a home-grown player which has been a key player in India’s growth journey and has contributed more than 150 million mobile users and this number is ever increasing. Connecting the last mile– to the Internet and relevant information – is an important part of the strategy for both BSNL and Micromax. We are confident that Bharat-1 will help millions of users experience the data and calling experience like never before.”


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