With Reliance Jio reportedly gearing up to launch an affordable Android smartphone in partnership with Google, a new report now suggests that Airtel is likely to follow suit to better compete with its arch-nemesis.

According to a report by the Economic Times, India’s once-largest wireless operator is in talks with smartphone makers to develop low-cost 4G phones that the company plans to combine with its mobile connections.

The devices will be full “smartphones” costing only around Rs. 2500 ($ 35). ET further adds that Airtel will offer locked and unlocked devices under this initiative. However, details are scant at the moment. Locked devices will be a first on the Indian market, so it will be interesting to see how they will be received by consumers across the country.

US carriers are well known for offering locked smartphones, reducing the huge burden of paying in advance. You can choose the service plan you prefer and then pay the same for a specified period of time. This not only gives you a new device but also calls and data services at an attractive price. Now assume this replicated model for a budget phone (already tested through JioPhone) in a market like India.

Meanwhile, the report is apparently corroborated by Light Reading. A senior executive from a national manufacturer has confirmed that Airtel is in fact working with various local brands such as Karbonn, Lava, and Micromax, to launch locked co-branded 4G devices on its network.

Yes, Airtel is exploring the option of giving bundled deals or phones with Airtel SIM lock. However, I will not be able to comment further on this due to confidentiality, ”the anonymous official reportedly told the publication.

The news appears fewer than a week after reports suggested that Reliance Jio is looking to launch new “affordable” Android smartphones before the end of this year. The company had announced a partnership with Google earlier this year for precisely this reason, so it will be interesting to see how things go in the coming days.

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