The country’s third largest telecom operator, Idea Cellular expects to launch its VoLTE services by the second quarter (July-September) of this fiscal and cover 20-25 million customers, Idea Cellular managing director Himanshu Kapania said on Monday. “We are going to introduce VoLTE. We have finished testing. We are in the process of contracting at this point of time and over the next two quarters, we should introduce our VoLTE services. We are initially planning to be able to build VoLTE for about 20-25 million customers, which is sufficient enough to be able to take care of our 4G expectations in volume in India,” he said at the company’s post-earnings analyst call. Kapania added that by 2020, the number of broadband users in the country are expected to touch a billion and the company intends to leverage the opportunity. VoLTE, which means Voice over Long Term Evolution, allows telecom firms to offer both voice and data without switching between bands.
It allows operators to provide a more efficient use of spectrum and eliminates the need to have voice on one network and data on another, besides unlocking the revenue potential and better quality of voice and data services. During the January-March quarter, Idea launched its 4G services in 8 service areas taking its 4G broadband reach to 19 telecom circles. It also introduced 3G services in 2 circles, thereby expanding its 3G product offerings to 15 service areas during the quarter. This is besides offering 3G services in remaining service areas on 3G ICR, except in Odisha.
New entrant Reliance Jio Infocomm (Jio) is already offering its services over VoLTE. Idea, which reported its March quarter performance last week, reported a consolidated net loss of R328 crore against a net loss of R384 crore in the preceding quarter. Revenues during the period declined 6.2% sequentially to Rs 8,126 crore. On a question over the future of bundled unlimited plans, Kapania said that the tariff for such plans could settle at Rs 300 per month level from the current around Rs 345.
Idea, which reported second consecutive quarter of losses has blamed the free services of Jio for this. It also said that the overall telecom industry witnessed decline in revenues in the second half of the fiscal. However, with Jio beginning to charge, though less, Idea expects some growth to come back in the current fiscal. “On a full year basis we are expecting that the industry (revenue) should be flat to a slight growth which means that the industry will recover from Q4 of 2016-17 to Q4 of 2017-18 by 15%,” Kapania said.