India’s burgeoning telecommunications market appears to have attracted the attention of two industry giants, with both Google and Apple reportedly looking to expand their presence in the subcontinent.
Both companies are first and foremost targeting the mobile handset market, with Google aiming to tap local manufacturers in order to launch low-cost devices powered by its Android operating system.
Although Android-based handsets are available in India from vendors such as Motorola and HTC, their high prices – around US$400 - renders them inaccessible to a large portion of the country’s population, whose income is typically low.
Google is working with Spice Mobility, Olive Telecom and Micromax Informatics with the aim of marketing handsets for around US$150 – a target figure which the firm hopes will drop by US$50 in the future. However, it acknowledges that there could be post-launch problems due to the inexperience of these firms in manufacturing smartphones.
Meanwhile, it is looking increasingly likely that a CDMA iPhone could be heading to the Indian market, with Apple reportedly discussing the possibility of developing such a device with Tata Teleservices and Reliance Communications.
Currently, all iPhones operate on competing GSM/WCDMA technology, although an operator-exclusive CDMA iPhone has long been rumoured to be heading for the US market.
GSM operators Vodafone and Bharti Airtel currently offer iPhones in India, but a CDMA iPhone would present Apple with the opportunity to reach a potential customer base of 124.3 million.
India’s handset market is unusual in that around a third of it is made up of roughly 35 local vendors. At the other end of the scale, Nokia has the largest market share, holding a third of the market by itself. However, smartphones have yet to take off due to the lack of 3G networks; licences were only issued recently and rollouts have, in many cases, yet to commence.