Bangalore, September12 2017: A year year after Reliance Industries launched its Jio mobile phones and services, riding 4G VoLTE networks, India's largest telecom operator, Airtel has adopted the same technology. It has announced VoLTE services in Mumbai starting today, and across the country over the next few months.
The 4th generation of cellular telephone networks or 4G is three times faster than 3G and six times faster than 2G or GSM when it comes to shifting data. The challenge for operators has been: how to carry voice and data over the same network in the most cost effective manner. While all Indian service providers now offer 4G services, they have had to run costly duplicate channels: one for voice, one for data. VoLTE or Voice over LTE (Long Term Evolution) lets operators use the same data network for voice calls as well. How is it done? By converting voice into data ones and zeroes and sending it in 'packets', then reassembling it at the other end as a voice. In the process, this digitised voice offers better quality and travels faster; so less delays.|
There is another advantage—one that Jio exploited to great effect and ended up with 130 million customers within 12 months. Since 4G VoLTE is all data, they could charge for data only and throw in voice calls for free. Jio subscribers today don't bother with data plans and voice plans and don't need to switch data on, when they are not able to use a WiFi hotspot. The phones are 'always on' as far as Internet is concerned. Now Airtel customers will enjoy the same advantage. If and when Airtel and Tata come together, as the industry expects, even more subscribers will enter the VoLTE phase. That leaves Vodafone and Idea who are already in talks to merge and it is almost certain that they too will embrace VoLTE to retain competitive advantage. BSNL is thinking even further ahead and has already launched trials with 5G networks in partnership with Nokia.
The 4G VoLTE advantage will only work if your set is VoLTE-ready. Not every 4G phone is a VoLTE phone. But many are: Airtel mentions compatible devices like iPhone SE / 6 /6plus/ 6S / 6S plus/7/7plus; Samsung J700 / A800/J2 Pro/J2 2016; Xiaomi Mi Max Prime / Redmi Note 4 / Mimax / Mi5; Gionee A1 and Oppo F3 plus. Jio launched a family of 4G VoLTE phones with its LYF series and of course the much touted and aggressively priced JioPhone that is currently in booking stage is also VoLTE-ready.
The 4G VoLTE advantage may be limited to the next three years or so. 5G is expected to be offered starting sometime in 2020 and may make 4G as well as 4G VoLTE history.