Jio is pushing global 4G smartphone market growth

4G smartphones are expected to achieve 21.3 percent growth in 2016 to 1.17 billion units from 967 million in 2015.

Growth drivers will be emerging telecom markets in Asia Pacific excluding Japan, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, and Middle East and Africa, said IDC in its smartphone market report released on November 29.

4G smartphone market in India is growing rapidly this year. For instance, Reliance Jio Infocomm, a 4G operator promoted by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, achieved 50 million 4G users in less than 90 days of starting its free offer during a special promotion drive.

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4G uptake in many emerging telecom markets was slow as 4G data tariffs were expensive compared to 3G, while 4G handsets were relatively pricey. Bharti Airtel, one of the main rivals of Reliance Jio, is reported to have added around 10 million 4G subscribers in around 5 years.

“We are quickly seeing this change in key growth markets like India where new operator Reliance Jio is aggressively trying to shake up the market by handing out free 4G SIM cards and launching own-branded low-cost 4G-enabled smartphones,” said Melissa Chau, associate research director with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers.

61 percent smartphone shipments were 4G-enabled in Asia Pacific excluding Japan, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, and Middle East and Africa in 2015.

4G smartphone adoption in mature markets — US, Canada, Japan, and Western Europe – will be 94 percent in 2016.

However, smartphone shipments are expected to 1.45 billion units in 2016, with a growth of 0.6 percent in 2016 against 10.4 percent growth in 2015, according to IDC.

IDC notes that the push to 4G is not limited to smartphones, but will provide a temporary boost to the shrinking feature phone market where 4G is a selling point in an even more cost-competitive space. In IDC’s short-term forecast, 4G feature phones will feature in emerging markets as well as in mature markets like the U.S. until smartphone prices drop further.

Reliance Jio is planning to bring out a cheap feature phone with VoLTE facility for offering voice services on 4G network to rural Indians. The proposed feature phone with VoLTE will impact the revenue and profitability of Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular, Vodafone India, among others because Indian telecoms rely on voice business for 80 percent of their revenue. Jio is offering free voice services to all Indians. India has more than 1 billion phone connections, according to the latest TRAI report.

Baburajan K
[email protected]