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Update: Airtel launches VoLTE service in Mumbai, to launch in other cities soon
NEW DELHI: Subscribers of Bharti Airtel in Mumbai will have a better calling experience in terms of call quality and faster connection after the market leader launched its voice over LTE (VoLTE) calling services in the city on Monday, tak ing on bitter rival Reliance Jio Infocomm at its own game.

The Sunil Mittal-led market leader is the first of the established telecom carriers to adopt the technology, and now plans to rapidly expand the VoLTE calling service across all its major geographies.

“This is a significant milestone in Airtel’s network transformation journey under Project Leap. Airtel has built a world-class 4G network across India and with the VoLTE compatible device ecosystem beginning to mature, we believe it’s the right time to enable VoLTE calling as part of our service portfolio," Abhay Savargaonkar, Director – Networks, Bharti Airtel said in a statement.

"Over the next few months, we will rapidly accelerate the deployment of VoLTE to cover all key geographies to bring HD quality calling to our customers. We keenly look forward to our device partners enabling Airtel VoLTE on their smartphones," Savargaonkar added.

Mukesh Ambani-led Jio was the first telecom operator offering VoLTE and has been touting that service as a key differentiator with its rivals.

Analysts say that the addresable market has become much larger following a decline in VoLTE smartphone prices in India, thereby the move to launch the VoLTE service makes sense for Airtel. VoLTE, which offers voice in a data format, is gaining in importance, they said, as it can be delivered at a lower cost per minute than traditional voice.

About one in every three phones sold in the April-June quarter in India was a VoLTE device, and this share could double by the end of the second quarter of 2018, Counterpoint Research said. According to the firm, close to 200 million 4G VoLTE featurephones could be sold in India in the next five years, providing a major opportunity for carriers to offer their services and handset makers to bring in new customers.

"With bundling becoming the main pricing strategy, and voice being often bundled as a apert of data package, it is imperative that operators have voice offering which is cheaper to provision than normal cicuit switch voice," Rohan Dhamija, partner and head for India and South Asia at Analysys Mason said. "Given that VoLTE has a lower cost per minute than traditional voice, in a scenario where the industry is under tremendous pricing pressure, in due course the importance of VoLTE could increase,” he added.

VoLTE allows an operator to offer both voice and data, with voice being just another application that rides on an LTE data network. The incumbent telcos currently offer calling on the legacy circuit-switch technology.

Airtel said that its VoLTE will be available on popular 4G/LTE enabled mobile devices, which must have a Airtel 4G SIM. "Customers can call any mobile, landline network using Airtel VoLTE. There will be no additional data charges for VoLTE and calls will be billed as per existing plan or packs benefits," the telco said in a statement.

The telco said that in the case of non-availability of 4G, Airtel VoLTE calls will automatically fall back on 3G/2G network to ensure that customers continue to stay connected at all times. Airtel VoLTE will also allow customers to continue with their data sessions at 4G speeds while the call is in progress.

The top telco by users said that it has also deployed 4G Advanced Carrier Aggregation technology in Mumbai that enables data speeds of up to 135 Mbps by combining spectrum capacities in 2300 Mhz (TD LTE) and 1800 Mhz (FD LTE).

India's second and third largest telcos - Vodafone and Idea Cellular- too have plans to launch VoLTE service in India. Vodafone is already conducting trials in major cities in partnership with Finnish telecom gear vendor Nokia, which is also powering Bharti Airtel's VoLTE service.

Airtel Digital HD Recorder / Kerala Vision Digital TV
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