Airtel planning to switch to VoLTE in key markets to take on Reliance Jio

By : |January 27, 2017 0

Reliance Jio is not stopping at anything. A Rs 30,000 crore fresh investment and a likely extension of its services up till June’16 is putting pressure on incumbent telcos to re-strategize things to retain their user base.

Moving along the lines, Bharti Airtel is reportedly planning to switch to VoLTE (Voice over Long-Term Evolution) in its major markets by the mid-2018. VoLTE technology that lies at the core of Jio’s network spectrum is a standard for high-speed wireless communication for mobile phones and data terminals.
And with Airtel expanding its 4G reach to all the 22 circles, the purported plans look very much feasible.

“VoLTE will be very relevant in key markets/big cities in next 12-18 months and even as sub-GHz band is best in deploying voice, 1,800 Mhz band is also very good. We are future-proofing our network for VoLTE and looking at deploying equipment switch in key markets,” Gopal Vittal, chief executive at Airtel, said.

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While Bharti Airtel offers voice on 2G network with circuit switch technology, VoLTE technology enables an operator to offer voice and data on the same spectrum band without switching. Recently, Airtel announced a new scheme offering free 4G data for 12 months to users who switch to Airtel 4G. The scheme commenced on 4th of January and will close on February 28, 2017.

Analysts believe that a switch to VoLTE for Airtel will always have edge over Reliance Jio. With a 2G/3G network and its coverage across India users can always fall back on 2G/3G wherever VoLTE doesn’t work.

Jio effect could be clearly discerned when Airtel released its Q3 results with net profit falling 54 percent from a year ago. For voice, the minutes on the network increased by over 5 percent but the voice ARPU (average revenue per user) fell to Rs 123 from Rs 132 a year ago. According to Vittal, “This is majorly due to the asymmetric traffic from a new operator and free voice services available. The burden of calls is high and below the cost of production, thereby impacting ARPUs.”

The company believes that post this period of free service, the customers will return back witnessing the network offered by Airtel. Besides the switching plans to VoLTE, Airtel is also designing better offer plans for its customers at a lower price.

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