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Reliance Jio’s next big bet: Laptops with a SIM card


A laptop with a SIM card — after smartphones and the 4G feature phone — could be the next big bet for Reliance Jio in its bid to increase its average revenue per user (ARPU).

The Mukesh Ambani-led Jio has held talks with US chip major Qualcomm to bring out laptops running the Windows 10 operating system with built-in cellular connections for the Indian market. Qualcomm is already closely working with Jio and Reliance Retail for the 4G feature phone.

“…we have talked to Jio. They could take the device and bundle it with data and content,”Miguel Nunes, senior director, product management, Qualcomm Technologies, told ET.

The chipmaker is also talking to home-bred Internet of Things (IoT) brand Smartron to bring the Snapdragon 835-powered laptops with cellular connectivity. Smartron confirmed the talks.

Globally, Qualcomm is already working with players such as HP, Asus and Lenovo for the so-called “Always Connected PCs”. Besides, Nunes said that there are now 14 operators that have extended their support for this new category, including the US’ Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and major carriers in Germany, Italy, the UK, France, and Australia.
Jio, which didn’t respond to ET’s queries, already has a device play in the country through its sister company, Reliance Retail, which sells MiFi dongles, LYF smartphones and 4G feature phone. It currently sources these devices from various Chinese original device markets (ODMs).

Neil Shah, research director, devices & ecosystems at Counterpoint Research, said that cellular-connected laptops could be the next big ARPU device for operators beyond smartphones.

As per Counterpoint data, close to five million laptops are sold every year in India with most of them connecting to either enterprise or home or public WiFi spots.

“So if these productivity-centric devices are connected to cellular networks, it will boost the value proposition, driving growth for this segment: first, by providing ubiquitous connectivity on the go and, second, in terms of privacy and security as the cellular connectivity is highly secure compared to WiFi hotspots,” Shah said.

According to Counterpoint, if operators can connect a million laptops — 20% of total sold in a year — to 4G networks by end of next year, and can charge close to Rs 300 (US$5) to Rs 1000 (US$15) per month, pricing depending upon the usage or QoS for a “premium grade” data connection, this could generate close to $5 million or Rs 30 crore revenue per month, or close to Rs 360 crore per year at a minimum to more than Rs 1000 crore a year from these users.

Qualcomm’s Nunes said, “We are trying to make sure that the operators understand the value. It’s new for the OEMs, new for the operators, and new for the channel.”

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