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Summary:

Samsung appears poised to strengthen its position in the highly populous nation of India if reports of a low-cost LTE handset and possible joint venture with an LTE operator are accurate.

Samsung Galaxy S III, Android
photo: Samsung

A fast LTE network isn’t very useful if there aren’t devices to use it. That obvious point may be why Reliance Industries (RIL) is set to “shake up the Indian telecommunications market” according to the Times of India. The publication’s sources say that RIL is close to striking a deal with Samsung for a low-cost, entry-level handset with LTE support.

The article, which I found by way of Sammy Hub, suggests that Samsung has agreed to create an entry-level smartphone priced at or near $100, the cost of which can be financed at no interest. This puts the target price near that of a Samsung 3G phone in India. Cheap voice, text and data plans for the LTE phone would then begin as low as as low as Rs 100 ($1.83) per month, although that’s likely a very limited plan.

But the development may have broader implications as well, with one Times of India source suggesting a bigger role for Samsung:

“Samsung will not be just another vendor to RIL supplying handsets as it was when Reliance Infocomm was launched in 2002. They are seeking a much broader role. A possible joint venture could also be in the offering.”

If true, that could give Samsung an even more prominent foothold in the populous nation and make it more difficult for both other LTE Android handset makers as well as Apple, to build up market share in the country. It’s still too early to make that call, however, as RIL isn’t expected to officially launch the LTE network until late this year (although a soft launch is expected in Mumbai and Delhi by mid-year.)

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  1. Apple barely knows that India exists. So Mr Cook will not lose sleep on this one :-)

    As for the rest, Nokia has of late seen India as their bread-and-butter country. And might jump in with other operators. Note that unlike USA, India is a horizontal market for handsets – you buy any handset and plugin a SIM of any operator. Recently, India also announced full number portability, giving users the choice of changing operators with no change in the number. All this implies that *an* operator-handset maker marriage is not a done deal, necessarily. That said, a low cost LTE enabled handset is exactly what the doctor ordered! bring it on!

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