Jio Effect: Now Airtel Plans VoLTE Implementation Nationwide; Signs $60M Deal with Nokia
Reliance Jio’s smartphones are available with VoLTE option, currently unavailable on all the other leading carriers in India. In fact, the company is also planning to launch VoLTE feature phones to take on the untapped market. VoLTE offers voice service being delivered as data flows within the LTE data bearer, and voice calls on Jio will be free forever.
To take on this threat, Airtel has awarded a $60 million project to Nokia for developing its VoLTE capability in India. The VoLTE facility is expected to be launched this year and the deal will be for Nokia to implement this technology nationwide. Airtel had also recently signed a $230 million deal with Nokia for deployment of 4G in 9 circles in India.
According to a report by ET, “Airtel was piloting the technology in a few areas and after successful testing, is now looking at a bigger launch by giving a pan-India contract for IMS (IP multimedia system) solution to Nokia.” All subscribers should be able to use this service by this year end, once launched.
This launch will also be one step for Airtel to bolster its authority over Reliance Jio. Jio hasn’t been able to keep up with its promised speeds and there is a lack of interconnection points for users to make calls comfortably.
In fact, Airtel has already started pilot testing of VoLTE in India, in major cities mostly. There have been no timelines communicated to the media yet, but some sources familiar with this hope this technology to be implemented by the year end.
Will Airtel be able to make VoLTE relevant in India?
One of the major problems with Reliance Jio is the lack of interconnection points and poor marketing of their VoLTE technology. Considering the fact that Jio phones have VoLTE themselves, the company should have talked more about this rather than their average smartphones.
According to a report, consumer demand in smartphones that support the VoLTE feature has nearly doubled since Jio’s launch in September. In fact, it was Jio’s VoLTE capability that caused a furore in the market for smartphones supporting this feature.
The same cannot be said for Airtel – subscribers might or might not have a smartphone supporting VoLTE. This is one big hurdle for Airtel as the company will have to assess their market before commercially launching this feature. Airtel doesn’t offer free voice calls right now, and Jio’s free voice calls is creating a huge pressure on the company.
However, once Airtel launches VoLTE in India, it will start partnering with smartphone makers to bundle these voice offers and capture the segment it had receded to Reliance Jio.
One thing is for sure – Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular, the three largest network carriers in India, have been threatened by Jio’s entry and are almost doing everything to keep their market with them. Even though Jio’s customers would already have a number with these leaders, the chances of them getting retained are less.
Source: ET | Image source: Android Central