Bharti Airtel, the largest telecom operator in the country is set to introduce VoLTE services as early as next week. Economic Times reports that Airtel will start its VoLTE services in Mumbai first and will expand them across major metro cities within this fiscal year. The service will rival Reliance Jio, which is currently the sole network with a VoLTE infrastructure as of now.
Since the launch of Jio's VoLTE service in September last year, there have been several rumours 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.
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 refarm that bandwidth to offer 4G data services.
The report adds that Airtel has already conducted final trials with nearly 15 device models and the company is planning software patches to enable VoLTE on users' devices.
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 JioPhone with bundled data and calling benefits. Bharti Airtel is said to introduce its own competitor to the JioPhone, but it will first need to roll out VoLTE services.
Jio has grown faster than Facebook and Twitter, but it is yet to cause a big dent on the subscriber base of the incumbent telecom operators. 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.