Make sure any new mobile phone you buy in 2017 is 4G VoLTE-ready
By Anand Parthasarathy
Bangalore, December11 2016: In the language of diplomacy, 'volte face' is a swift change or sharp reversal of position. With 4G VoLTE, mobile carrier technology has entered a new phase that indicates a sharp turning around of priorities. The first three generations of cell phone evolution, were all about voice -- the main reason for carrying a phone. Data was an additional and costly feature for the few.
With 4G, the tail wags the dog: data replaces voice as the prime reason people use a mobile voice. And with 4G's latest avatar, VoLTE or Voice over LTE ( Long Term Evolution, a term that is a cross over from 3G to 4G), the domination of data is complete: voice is incidental; it is converted into data and in fact rides over the network in packets of ones and zeroes, before being de-scrambled at the end, to become a voice call.
Almost all Indian mobile providers are gradually 'evolving' from 3G to 4G networks which effectively multiply transmit speeds by a factor of 10. But in 2016, it took the new entrant, Reliance Jio to speed up the transition by launching the first service that was exclusively 4G VoLTE. In other words you could not fully encash the Jio SIM or service unless your phone was 4G VoLTE. This was a daring premise: Jio aimed to be the biggest service provider of the masses, by pushing customers to adopt the very latest technology! The latest numbers released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority on December 9 shows that 15 million new Jio subscribers in its first month -- September -- were mainly responsible for reversing the trend of falling subscriber numbers since June.
As of today Jio has 50 million subscibers -- let's face it the offer a free SIM and free services till March 2017 end, has helped -- but that also means 50 million 4G VoLTE phones purchased. These buyers will subsequently pay only for data -- voice calls, the raison d'etre of a phone -- are a free service.
Other providers -- Airtel, Idea, Vodafone, etc -- are matching Jio with compelling data-centric offers of their own. And phone makers are rushing to market with 4G VoLTE ready phones at all price bands from Rs 4000 to Rs 20,000.
I have been using a phone with a Jio SIM for a month now and the most dramatic differences are these: Because 4G VoLTE is data first, I don't worry about data packs, switching data on and off as I leave home or office WiFi coverage. My emails accounts, phone text messages, WhatsApp and Facebook are always on and updating. Voice calls are clearer, and I can attach documents and pictures even as I speak and the person at the other end of a voice call can see them as we speak. I can also switch with one touch from a voice call to a video call. These are the first palpable plus points of a phone service that is Data First. I can never go back to the old voice only ways -- and if you buy a new phone in 2016, it would make sense to ensure it is 4GVoLTE-ready. It will work well for at least 3 years since 5G is not expected till 2020.