Microsoft India plans to sign a 4G data-bundling pact with India's No 1 carrier Bharti Airtel to encourage the latter's customers to buy the recently launched Lumia 4G smartphones, a top company executive told ET.
Once the deal is formalised, Airtel 4G customers purchasing the Lumia 950 or 950 XL will get free data bundled with the devices, which run on the Windows 10 operating system.
The 4G data-bundling pact will be extended to the more affordable Lumia 550, a 4G smartphone slated for launch in India around Christmas time. The Windows 10 device works only on a single 4G band (1800 Mhz) and is likely to be priced below Rs 10,000.
"Microsoft India is keen to partner with Bharti Airtel for a 4G data-bundling pact, wherein their customers may be able to double their data packs for free on purchasing our Windows 10 Lumia 4G devices such as the 950, 950 XL and the soon-to-launched Lumia 550," said Ajey Mehta, country head, mobile devices, Microsoft India. Details of the data-bundling pact are still under discussion, he said.
A Bharti Airtel spokesman said the company "as a policy does not comment on market speculation," in response to ET's email.
The Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL were launched last month at Rs 43,699 and Rs 49,399, respectively.
Microsoft India isn't ruling out similar pacts with other 4G operators but the "current discussions are happening only with Airtel," Mehta said.
Bharti Airtel has announced plans to spend Rs 60,000 crore to upgrade its mobile broadband network to take on the challenge for data customers from Reliance Jio Infocomm, besides existing rivals such as Vodafone and Idea Cellular. By March 2016, Airtel plans to set up 70,000 base stations (BTS), the largest-ever deployment anywhere outside China. Jio is expected to start 4G services by the end of this month.
Top GSM carriers Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular have been bracing for a battle over higher-paying data subscribers with Jio. The long-awaited start is seen as disrupting mobile broadband tariffs as the company seeks to win lucrative data customers from existing 4G carriers.