Airtel May Launch VoLTE Service to Take on JIO.


Bharti Airtel has reportedly begun testing its VoLTE services and will enable them as early as next week. The feature will help India’s largest telecom operator compete against its closest competitor Reliance Jio.

As it looks to take on Reliance Jio, country’s top mobile operator Bharti Airtel, which is currently undergoing trials for voice over LTE (VoLTE) in some cities including Mumbai, plans to launch commercial services in the next quarter. Also, Airtel’s 4G footprint will cover all the towns and cities by end of 2017 financial year. The company has already launched 4G services in all the 22 telecom circles but a few cities and towns in the circles are currently not getting the latest technology but the company is upgrading its network to cover most of the country by end of FY17.

Since the launch of Jio’s VoLTE service in September last year, there have been several rumors about leading telecom operators Airtel and Vodafone India incorporating VoLTE support to their networks. With the launch, Bharti Airtel is set to become the first incumbent player to offer VoLTE services. Voice over LTE or VoLTE uses the same network as mobile data to enable high-definition calls.

Hints of Airtel VoLTE Services:

The report adds that Airtel customers in Mumbai and Kolkata will receive text messages to activate VoLTE calling when the service becomes available. Airtel currently offers voice services over traditional circuit-switch technology on 3G or 2G network while data services are offered using 4G network. With the rollout of VoLTE services, Airtel will be able to free up its 3G and 2G airwaves. Airtel could even reform that bandwidth to offer 4G data services.

Post-Diwali, VoLTE services from Airtel will cover Tier-2/Tier3 cities, thereby covering the whole of India by April 1st, 2018.

Major telecom operators including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, and Idea Cellular are engaged in a fierce price battle with reliance jio. Jio’s 4G only network has managed to acquire over 130 million customers in just one year and the company recently introduced a 4G feature phone called the Jio Phone with bundled data and calling benefits. Bharti Airtel is said to introduce its own competitor to the Jio Phone, but it will first need to roll out VoLTE services.

Reliance Industries is set to ship its VoLTE featurephone, JioPhone, starting this month for a refundable three-year deposit of Rs 1,500. It got bookings for 6 million units in a day and a half when it took orders. Indian phone makers such as Intex and Lava are also expected to launch similar models, thus creating a critical mass of low-cost VoLTE-ready phones. Airtel could benefit from the creation of a large ecosystem of VoLTE-based devices.

With the launch of VoLTE services. Airtel will be better equipped to tackle Jio, which has been touting the service as one of its major differentiators.