The country’s largest telecom operator, Bharti Airtel, on Monday launched VoLTE services in Mumbai, which will be followed by launches in other metros and will finally cover all the 22 telecom circles by end of the current fiscal. Bharti’s director (networks) Abhay Savargaonkar said, “This is a significant milestone in Airtel’s network transformation journey under Project Leap. Over the next few months, we will rapidly accelerate the deployment of VoLTE to cover all key geographies to bring HD quality calling to our customers. We keenly look forward to our device partners enabling Airtel VoLTE on their smartphones.” In November 2015, Bharti launched its network transformation programme, Project Leap under which the company announced investments of `60,000 crore over the next three years. It now has 4G services available across all the 22 telecom circles and has around 1,16,717 3G/4G sites.
Savargaonkar said with VoLTE compatible device ecosystem beginning to mature in the country, the firm believes it is the right time to enable VoLTE calling as part of its service portfolio. On the company’s VoLTE expansion plans, persons in know of the development said the services will now be launched in Delhi, Bangaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai in the next 2-3 weeks. Besides, VoLTE services will be available across all the telecom circles by March 2018.
Bharti’s VoLTE services will be available on 4G/LTE-enabled mobile phones and other devices, which must have a Bharti 4G SIM. Customers will not have to pay for any additional data charges for VoLTE and calls will be billed as per existing plans. In case of non-availability of 4G, Airtel VoLTE calls will automatically fall back on 3G/2G network to ensure that customers continue to stay connected.
Following the launch of Reliance Jio, which has a pan-India VoLTE network, Bharti, Vodafone and Idea have fast tracked their VoLTE launch plans. Sources said Vodafone is conducting tests in some circles and will be launching VoLTE in a select circles in the next few months. Idea too is in an advanced stage of signing contracts with suppliers and is finalising plans for VoLTE launch, which will take around 6-9 months.