Airtel to start offering free VoLTE calls from next week to take on Jio

It has been in the works for some time. Now Airtel VoLTE service is apparently here. According to a report on Friday, India’s biggest telecom operator will launch its VoLTE calling service next week in Mumbai. With VoLTE calls, which will use 4G data network and hence will be effectively free for consumers, Airtel hopes to take on Jio. Currently Jio is the only telecom operator offering VoLTE calls. In fact, Jio is all-data network, where all calls are made using 4G connectivity.

The report in the Economic Times, a daily business newspaper, says that Mumbai will be the first city where Airtel users will get VoLTE calls feature. Gradually it will be rolled out to other cities, including Delhi and Kolkata. The launch comes after a comprehensive VoLTE calls trial that Airtel was doing earlier on its network.

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.

“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,” sources told the the business newspaper.

Using VoLTE requires some specific software and hardware support in the phone a person is using. Although most of the smartphones, launched in India especially after the launch of Jio, support VoLTE calls, many older phones and feature phones will not be able to use it.
To target feature phone users and woo them with free calls, Jio recently launched the “free” JioPhone. The JioPhone, although a feature phone in terms of design and hardware, has some smartphone like traits and it can utilise 4G network to make VoLTE calls.

It has been rumoured that by the end of this year, Airtel will also come out with its own 4G feature phone that will support free VoLTE calls. Although details are scarce, it is expected that Airtel will partner with other phone makers, possibly and Indian phone company like Micromax or Intex, to create a 4G feature phone similar to JioPhone.