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DataWind, RIL talk on cheapest tab

Surajeet Das Gupta  |  New Delhi 

Expected to be priced Rs 4,000-5,000; Mukesh Ambani looks to repeat his low-cost CDMA trick of 2002.

Canada-based DataWind — which launched itself into the limelight with the world’s cheapest tablet computer Aakash recently — is now in talks with Reliance Industries (RIL) to develop the world’s cheapest 4G-enabled tablet for it, priced Rs 4,000-5,000.

The price point is nearly one-fourth of what is currently on offer from phone makers HTC, Dell, Motorola and others.

Confirming the development, Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of DataWind, a developer of wireless and web access products, said over the phone: “We have had preliminary talks with Reliance Industries. It is possible to embed a TD-LTE (long-term evolution) chipset in the tablet for 4G coverage. To begin, this December we'll launch a GPRS-enabled tablet at an MRP of Rs 2,999 with some Indian operators. Once 4G services are launched, we’ll have a product in that space too.”

Rs 5,000: Maximum price of the 4G tab targeted by RIL, half of what’s offered by rivals

$400: Starting price of 4G-enabled tablets at present

Rs 2,999: Price at which DataWind is launching GPRS-enabled tablet Aakash with Indian operators in December

Rs 99: Monthly charges for unlimited data usage consumers will initially get as part of DataWind’s tie-up with operators; it will go down to Rs 49 in a few months

A Reliance Industries spokesperson said, the company did not wish to comment on speculation.

DataWind’s 4G offering is in sync with the Reliance strategy to storm the high speed data 4G market with low-cost data devices. Tuli says their target is to offer tablets at less than half their competitors’ prices. The company already has a manufacturing partner in Hyderabad and is looking at expanding its production capacity to other cities. It may also set up a manufacturing unit in China for a cost advantage.

Globally, there are very few 4G devices at present and their prices are high. In the US, for instance, HTC’s Evo View (a 4G tablet) is available at $399 from Sprint. The Dell Streak 4G tablet is available at $355 at discount stores, while the Zoom from Motorola can be bought for $599. Some are tied up with long-term consumer contracts. Even 4G dongles offered in some countries are available for more than $50. The latest 4G smartphones can be had at $100, but tied to a long-term contract.

Reliance Industries, which bought a majority stake in Mahendra Nahata’s Infotel, has a pan-India licence and spectrum to run broadband wireless services (BWA). According to industry sources, the company is expected to launch its services some time early next financial year and is looking at a low-cost model for entry. That would include leasing out of fibre networks and towers as well as software applications.

Experts say Mukesh Ambani, who spearheaded the data revolution in 2002 with the launch of CDMA services by Reliance Communications, wants to recreate the magic. Reliance Communications went to his brother Anil Ambani, after their business split in 2005.

Reliance Communications had then made a grand entry into the telecom space, with the launch of the aggressively priced, “Monsoon Hungama” at Rs 500. It offered free data usage and was able to rope in millions of customers within a short span of time.

In a presentation to analysts, Reliance has said China has 130 million broadband customers and India can reach that number in the next three-four years. The company wants the leadership position in that market.

The Aakash tablet, launched by DataWind, has a seven-inch display with 800-by-480 pixel resolution, 256 MB RAM, two GB flash storage, and a 366 MHz processor. The tablet runs on the Android 2.2 operating system.

Tuli says the response to Aakash has been very good. It has already received pre-bookings from individuals for 108,000 tablets and expressions of interest from various companies for 2.2 million units. The company hopes in the initial phase, it will be able to sell more than 100,000 units through operators.

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First Published: Sat, October 29 2011. 00:04 IST