Kolkata: Qualcomm, the world’s top supplier of mobile phone chips, is likely to play a key role in supporting the
Jio-Google smartphone in India even as the country’s telecom market leader targets the 300 million-odd feature phone users to upgrade to smart devices.

“Qualcomm played a critical role in massification of Jio’s 4G VoLTE feature phone, and having had a partnership with Jio, I think we will continue that legacy of collaborating and supporting them in bringing new devices and offerings, across price tiers that they would wish to drive,” Rajen Vagadia, president at Qualcomm India, told The Economic Times.

He said any decision on Qualcomm supporting the budget Android smartphone or its 400-series Snapdragon chipsets being in play there would be “confidential to Jio and Google”. Analysts expect Mukesh Ambani-led Jio to quickly unveil the low-cost smartphone, especially after it reported its lowest-ever net 4G user adds (at 5.2 million) in the December quarter. The budget smartphone launch, they say, is essential for Jio to retain and upgrade its JioPhone users as the telco could face more churn in the March quarter when 8-10 million JioPhone contracts are scheduled to expire.

Qualcomm’s Vagadia also expects calendar 2021 to be a pivotal year in driving massification of 5G devices in India, though the advent of 5G smartphones priced in the ₹10,000-15,000 range would hinge on how the handset original equipment makers (OEMs) position themselves in the 5G market. Pricing of a 400-series entry-level 5G phone, he said, would start higher than a 400 series 4G product, given the host of high-end features such devices will pack, but they would drop down faster.

“Qualcomm lives by the 5G for-all mantra, and we’ve seen 5G devices launched at lower price-points of ₹20,000 this year, and given the history of how prices of 4G phones came down in India, I see an acceleration in the massification of 5G devices, given that 4G phones running on both our 600 and 400 series chipsets are already priced at sub-₹10,000 and around,” Vagadia said.

The top Qualcomm India executive said a basic 4G smartphone with “a 5.5-to-6-inch screen and memory configuration of (1+8 GB) can already be sourced, at an FOB of anywhere in $40-50 range (₹2,800-3,500 approx)”.

Vagadia is gung ho on the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for the handset sector, saying it “offers a great opportunity for local brands to make a comeback in the smartphones space” since the government is incentivising local smartphone manufacturing.

Qualcomm also expects India to become a major exports hub, riding on the PLI scheme, driving not just manufacturing of phones, but also components.

Vagadia, separately, made a strong pitch for early availability of a mix of 5G spectrum bands in India, including millimetre waves and mid-band, saying that would help local startups design latest low-latency 5G solutions that can be used for deploying use cases like drones, for last mile reach during disasters or for delivering sophisticated medical healthcare remotely.

“Startups globally have access to 5G networks running on millimeter waves, so Indian startups need the same to design futuristic solutions that are globally valuable.”



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