Vodafone and Airtel to Bring iPhone to India.

No sooner has Steve Jobs unleashed the new 3G iPhone at the Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco than back home, not one but two carriers — Bharti Airtel and Vodafone — have announced, in conjunction with Apple, that they will be bringing the iconic device to India later this year. However, neither has specified the launch date or pricing of the 3G iPhone in India.

And now that the wraps are finally off of the much-hyped 3G iPhone, a quick recap of the stuff it’s made of. iPhone II marries all of the features of iPhone with 3G networking to make the device “twice as fast” as the first-generation iPhone. iPhone II features built-in GPS for expanded location-based mobile services and iPhone 2.0 software with support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, and is capable of running hundreds of third-party applications already built with the recently-released iPhone SDK.

Vodafone and Apple will bring iPhone 3G first to Australia, Italy, New Zealand, and Portugal on July 11. In these markets, Vodafone will make available iPhone 3G on both prepaid and contract price plans that will include value data bundles. Vodafone will then, later this year, make iPhone 3G available in other markets including the Czech Republic, Egypt, Greece, South Africa, Turkey, and most importantly — India. Details of specific launch dates and price plans will be made available in the respective countries by individual Vodafone operating companies. Vodafone customers in all of these markets including India can pre-register online and in retail stores in the next few days.

Meanwhile, Airtel customers who wish to receive more information on the Apple iPhone can send an SMS with keyword “iPhone” to 54321 (toll-free number). Airtel will announce details regarding pricing and availability at a later date, the company said.

Announcing the Apple-Vodafone partnership, Frank H R Vekamp, global CMO of Vodafone Group, said, “We are very excited to bring iPhone 3G to many of our customers across Europe and emerging markets this summer. Vodafone’s extensive, high-speed, and reliable networks mean customers can enjoy a great Internet and communications experience on their iPhone 3G.”

On a similar note, Manoj Kohli, president and chief executive officer of Bharti Airtel, said, “We are delighted with the opportunity to bring the innovative iPhone 3G to India. As India’s leading telecom operator, Bharti Airtel has always stood for innovation and customer delight. With our reach across the country and iPhone’s revolutionary features, we have a valuable proposition for our customers in India.”

Meanwhile, Tim Cook, chief operating officer of Apple said in separate announcements that they are thrilled to work with both Vodafone and Bharti Airtel and can’t wait to get this revolutionary product in the hands of even more people around the world.

Techtree had previously reported about the possibility of Apple going multi-carrier in India. Now that it’s indeed official, we asked some people for their views on the same. “Vodaphone has an international tie-up with Apple for the iPhone in a lot of countries, so it is little wonder that they got roped in for India as well. This seems to be purely from a goodwill point of view. Bharti Airtel on the other hand has a huge reach in India, and they’ve been roped in as well by Apple. This is purely from the business point of view,” said a hard-core techie we know. A Vodafone customer said, “I’m rather more interested in knowing when they are launching the iPhone in India and what will it cost”. Meanwhile, an Airtel subscriber had this to say, “I’d like to see attractive schemes like special tariffs on voice-GPRS services along with better network services and support.”

All said, both Bharti Airtel and Vodafone are established names in telecom; Bharti Airtel is known as India’s leading integrated telecom services provider while Vodafone is known as the world’s leading international mobile communications group. It will be interesting to see how the carriers’ respective associations with Apple play out, to say the least.


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