Recently, MTS announced that it will give a free, high end Android smartphone, triggering speculations that it will start a trend in India of free handsets bundled with network contracts, a scheme that is successful in the US market.
News from Canada also hints at something similar. The Canadian Telecom service provider Telus has reduced prices of several popular models and offers most smartphones free if customers agree to sign a three year term with the operator.
Interestingly, contrary to the perception that only older phones are being offered with such schemes, bundled plans also provide newly launched handsets. For example, a Windows Phone 7 device is offered free by Telus, and even the iPhone was subsidised at launch in the USA and Canada.
Bundling of services and handsets happens more often in Europe and USA, and isn’t done very commonly in India.
Though Indian telcos mostly offer low-cost handsets, the new MTS offer and the introduction of 3G services, might result in bundled plans with high-end phones also becoming common.
For example, MTNL has teamed up with Micromax and Nokia to provide handsets at reduced rates. Earlier, Reliance Communications and Tata Indicom provided subsidised phones to users, but they were low end CDMA phones.
It will be interesting to see how Indian telecom service providers, who are battling with average revenue per user (ARPU), will afford the subsidy on handsets.