Nokia signs VoLTE deal worth $60 mn with Airtel
The Finnish communications company, Nokia is said to have once again bagged a deal from Airtel. This time Airtel has awarded Nokia with a $60 million (Rs.420 crore) deal to implement VoLTE technology in India which may be launched within this year. Airtel had also recently signed a $230 million deal with Nokia for deployment of 4G in 9 circles in India.
VoLTE allows an operator to offer both voice and data without switching between bands, with voice being just another application that rides on an LTE data network. VoLTE also lets you make HD voice calls with better clarity compared to 2G or 3G. Furthermore, VoLTE as a technology offers various other advantages such as better smartphone battery life, less call set up time and better voice quality. 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.
On the other hand, Airtel currently offers calling on the legacy circuit-switch technology. If Airtel will be able to successfully launch the VoLTE any time soon, it may be in an advantageous position, considering that Jio hasn’t been able to publicize the benefits of this technology due to the interconnection issue, which the 4G entrant claimed is resulting in call failures. Airtel will use VoLTE as a complimentary service to its existing voice offering. In case VoLTE is not available in an area, Airtel users would be able to fall back within the network to lower technologies, which are 2G and 3G, industry watchers say.
It is to be noted that consumer demand in smartphones that support the VoLTE feature has nearly doubled since Jio Infocomm’s 4G launch early September. More than 14 million VoLTE-enabled smartphones are estimated to have been shipped into India in the September quarter, nearly twice the number in the previous quarter, Cyber media Research said.
Once Airtel launches VoLTE in India, it will start partnering with smartphone makers to bundle the voice offers and capture the segment it had receded to Reliance Jio.
Effects on other Telco’s:
According to sources, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, the country’s second and third largest telecom carriers, could also join the VoLTE race soon. While Vodafone India is already trying VoLTE in select circles and using Nokia’s IMS solution, Idea Cellular, on the other hand, is reportedly in advanced talks with Nokia and Ericsson for VoLTE equipment and service deployment.
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.