Reliance Industries, India’s largest company by market capitalization, and American tech titan Google have strengthened their collaboration on cloud and 5G ahead of the roll-out of the ultra-affordable smartphone they jointly developed specifically for the Indian market.
In July last year, Google came onboard the cap table of Reliance’s digital arm Jio Platforms, buying its 7.7% stake for USD 4.5 billion. At the time, the Mountain View, California-headquartered giant also entered into a commercial agreement to create entry-level affordable smartphones with an optimized Android operating system and the Play Store.
“India still has nearly 300 million mobile users who are unable to escape from inefficient and exorbitant 2G services because even a basic 4G smartphone remains unaffordable for these users,” Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director at Reliance Industries Limited, said during the Reliance’s 44th annual general meeting, held virtually on Thursday.
“Therefore, an ultra-affordable 4G smartphone is essential to make India “2G-mukt” (2G-free),” he added.
Dubbed JioPhone Next, the low-cost smartphone is now set to be launched on September 10. However, the companies did not reveal its price. Hailing it as a “breakthrough smartphone,” Ambani said, JioPhone Next is powered by an extremely optimized version of Android OS and packed with cutting-edge features like the Google Assistant, automatic read-aloud of screen text, language translation, and a smart camera with augmented reality filters.
This will be among the most affordable smartphones not just in India but globally, he added.
“Our vision is to bring affordable access to information for Indians in their own language, to build new products and services for India’s unique needs, and to empower businesses with technology,” Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, said during the virtual event. “It is built for India, and it will open up new possibilities for millions of new users who will experience the internet for the very first time.”
The two companies also charted out the details of their “new 5G partnership” between Google Cloud and Jio Infocomm, Reliance’s telecom business under Jio Platforms.
As a part of this collaboration, Reliance will shift its core retail businesses—chains of retail stores under Reliance Retail, e-commerce venture JioMart, music streaming service JioSaavn, and online healthcare platform JioHealth—to Google Cloud’s infrastructure and leverage Google’s AI and machine learning, e-commerce, and demand forecasting offerings.
Furthermore, Jio Infocomm will use Google Cloud’s cutting-edge technology to power its homegrown 5G Solutions. The two giants plan to bring together a portfolio of 5G edge computing solutions to help industries address real business challenges. The Mumbai-headquartered conglomerate said it will explore building new services across the gaming, healthcare, education, and video entertainment sectors. These services will use Jio’s 5G network, software, and Google Cloud’s innovations in AI and ML, data and analytics, and other cloud-native technologies.
This partnership will “help more than a billion Indians connect to faster and better internet, support businesses in their digital transformation, and help Jio build new services in sectors like health, education, and more—laying a foundation for the next phase of India’s digitization,” said Pichai.