The State of VoLTE in India

VoLTE might sound like technical gibberish to most people but this acronym may very well be the future of mobile voice communication. VoLTE will allow phone operators to streamline their data and voice infrastructure, making it more efficient. But what exactly is it?

Consumers may not realize it but 4G was designed solely to carry data which means that even users who are on 4G networks still rely on 2G/3G to make phone calls. Voice over LTE or VoLTE is a technology that allows voice to be carried over 4G networks.

Why VoLTE Now?

But more than technology is at work here. There are other reasons why operators want VoLTE and that is the proliferation of VoIP calling through apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook messenger. These apps have already reduced SMS revenues for operators and with the increasing coverage of 4G networks, they may become a formidable threat to voice revenues in the future. VoLTE will allow operators to offer HD quality voice calls that can prevent users from switching over to other applications.

VoLTE Status in India

However even as this technology promises to help beleaguered mobile operators across the world, its wide rollout is still very far in the future especially in India where 4G networks are only now taking off. For VoLTE to become viable, a number of factors have to come together. Consumers need access to VoLTE-enabled smartphones and operators need wide 4G networks across the country to ensure that there are no dropped calls when users are on the move.

Currently only a very few operators like Airtel, Vodafone and Reliance offer 4G networks in the first place. Additionally, VoLTE requires spectrum in the 2,300MHz band which only Airtel, Aircel and newcomer Reliance Jio have at present. Even though Bharti Airtel offers 4G network access throughout most of India, it can offer VoLTE in only nine circles out of the total 22 in the country. On the other hand Reliance Jio has a pan India license for VoLTE but has to build out its other infrastructure since it has only getting started.

The presence and availability of VoLTE capable networks is just one part of the equation. Not many users in India have VoLTE-enabled phones to utilize the service. VoLTE smartphones can be quite expensive for a price-sensitive market like India, although a number of manufacturers have announced plans to bring lower-cost devices with the required VoLTE circuitry. It remains to be seen if carriers can seamlessly deploy VoLTE and retain customers or they will continue to lose the battle with OTT VoIP/messenger apps.