Bharti Airtel became the first telco since Reliance Jio to introduce VoLTE
(voice over long-term evolution) services for its 4G customers
in Mumbai, with plans to deploy the services across the country in the coming months.
launch comes at a time when incumbents are facing the brunt of one-year-old Jio which disrupted the market with free calling and low data charges on their VoLTE network. Vodafone, Idea and even BSNL are expected to roll out their VoLTE services by mid-2018.
“Over the next few months, we will rapidly accelerate the deployment of VoLTE to cover all key geographies to bring HD (high definition) quality calling to our customers,” said Abhay Savargaonkar, network director, Bharti Airtel.
VoLTE users will continue to be charged according to their existing plans on the new network.
Last week, Airtel wrote to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) regarding Jio’s misrepresented claims on interconnection usage charges, which remains another bone of contention between the incumbents and Jio.
Airtel has been trying to counter Jio with new plans costing Rs 399 and Rs 349 which offer 1 GB data per day. In the last quarter, Airtel’s net profit plunged 75 per cent, with the annual gross revenue dropping 4.6 per cent sequentially, as it had to reduce tariffs to stay competitive. "Price points are not the final call for end consumers. Eventually, it will boil down to the kind of experience that the telco is able to provide to them. If they suffer call drops and signal loss, it really won't make much of a difference," said Amresh Nandan, research director, Gartner. While VoLTE would be an essential service for telcos to survive in the future, Airtel's launch is not likely to prompt others to speed up their VoLTE launch, analysts said.
Airtel is also said to be in talks with handset manufacturers to launch low-cost smart phones that will counter the Rs 1,500 JioPhone.
Airtel has also deployed 4G Advanced Carrier Aggregation technology in Mumbai, which will enable data speeds of up to 135 Mbps by combining spectrum capacities in 2300 Mhz (TD LTE) and 1800 Mhz (FD LTE), the company said.