Airtel, which is the largest mobile operator in India and also has 4G spectrum in 8 circles (including Qualcomm’s 4 circles) has sought permission from government to test technology that will allow it to offer voice call service over LTE (4G) network.
This move comes soon after news of RIL(Reliance Industries), which is the only player with PAN Indian 4G spectrum, seeking similar permission. According to reports Department of Telecom is likely to give the permission to Reliance Industries.
Voice calls are currently not allowed to be offered on 4G networks, however new telecom policy which will come into effect sometime in 2014 has provisions that is supposed to change this. But even with that being in place, currently even technology is not ready for voice call offerings on 2.3MHz spectrum band in which Indian operators have for 4G (while 700MHz band on which 4G is offered in USA does allow voice calls). Therefore it is important that these operators test the technology that will allow them to offer such services.
Airtel earlier this year bought 49 per cent stake in Qualcomm’s 4G venture which has spectrum in Delhi, Mumbai, Haryana and Kerala taking its total tally to eight circles. It is already offering services in Kolkata, Bangalore and Pune and is likely to launch service in Chandigarh soon.
Airtel is likley to use a circuit switching technology that will automatically put its LTE subscribers on its 2G and 3G network when making a voice call and in this way they will be able to enjoy voice call feature across the country and not just in circles where Airtel has 4G network.
RIL (Infotel) too had recently informed the government that it had ingeniously developed a technology to test the same – VoLTE – voice over LTE,and said a trial would be helpful in maturing this technology platform.