New Delhi: India’s largest mobile phone operator by subscribers, Bharti Airtel Ltd, will introduce the iPhone 3G in the country on 22 August, part of a 70-nation roll out of the faster, cheaper upgrade to Apple Inc.’s mobile handset.
The handsets will be sold through the operator’s customer service outlets, the New Delhi-based company said in an emailed statement on Wednesday. Bharti didn’t provide pricing details.
Picture perfect: A woman takes a picture with her new iPhone in San Francisco, US. Mobile firms in India decided to launch the 3G model of the iPhone after the government announced its 3G policy last week. Photograph: Kimberly White / Bloomberg
Sales in India may lag behind other nations as India has yet to start 3G, or third-generation, networks needed to support speedier browsing and downloads.
“The extreme business user may not migrate from a BlackBerry to the iPhone,” said Soham Raninga, an associate editor with PC World magazine and head of the publication’s product-testing lab in Bangalore.
India, which this year will auction licences and spectrum for 3G services, added more wireless users in June than China, the only larger market by total number of subscribers.
Bharti is trying to offer the iPhone before Vodafone Group Plc. as Apple chose the two providers to tap the world’s second largest wireless market. But Vodafone will also launch the Apple 3G iPhone the same day, a person close to the firm and with knowledge of the developments said, asking not to be named. “The model will be the same as Airtel and the pricing will be around Rs20,000-25,000, though it is yet to be confirmed.”
According to this person, the two Indian mobile phone firms had planned to launch only 2G or second-generation version of the iPhone, but decided to launch the 3G model after the government announced its 3G policy last week. “There was an agreement with Apple that Airtel will launch after us. Since they (Airtel) have made an announcement this morning, we are forced to launch it along with Airtel,” the person added.
“We will shortly make our announcement,” Madhvendra Das, a Mumbai-based spokesman for Vodafone, said over the phone. Bharti Airtel shares gained 3.59% to close at Rs869.70 on the Bombay Stock Exchange. Vodafone was little changed at 141.50 pence at 8pm (Indian time) on the London Stock Exchange.
R. Jai Krishna of Mint contributed to this story.