Airtel to launch VoLTE services next week – Will customers get free voice calling?

NEW DELHI: Bharti AirtelBSE 1.45 % is set to take on bitter rival Reliance Jio Infocomm at its own game by launching, as early as next week, voice services using the same 4G technology employed by the industry newcomer, people familiar with the matter said.

The services will be expanded across India well within this fiscal year, they said.

The Voice over LTE (VoLTE) technology offers more clarity on voice through high definition calling, using the same network used for carrying data.
The Sunil Mittal-owned market leader is the first of the established telecom carriers to adopt the technology, and it is expected to take the competition to the Mukesh Ambani-owned new entrant that has highlighted free VoLTE calls and unlimited data as USPs to garner a 130-million user base within a year of its commercial launch last September.
Although, a new technology, VoLTE has become popular in India after Jio entered the market last year. Instead of relying on GSM network, Jio uses 4G data to enable voice calls. This is the reason why Jio can offer unlimited free calls to its users. This is also one feature that Airtel and other telecom operators have struggled to match even as they have brought down the data prices and call charges to meet the challenge from Jio.
Airtel is likely to launch its VoLTE services first in Mumbai, followed by Kolkata and other metro cities, the people said. The company had conducted trials in the metros and three to four other major cities for a few months.
Though the telecom market is abuzz with speculations that voice calls may be made free for customers because VoLTE calls will use 4G data network, nothing has been hinted officially.

“Some customers in Mumbai and Kolkata, and then other metro cities where Airtel is planning to launch, will get messages to activate VoLTE calls on their phones,” one of the people said.

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