India is seeing a digital revolution and there is a shift in the way mobile phones are used by consumers. From taking pictures to messaging, smartphones are now acting as mini handheld computers. The need to be connected will drive the data bandwidth consumption to increase five fold in the next three years. Consumers are now expecting more from their smartphones and one of the voice trends that will drive the smartphone adoption will be VoLTE or voice over LTE.
What is VOLTE?
Voice over LTE happens when your carrier allows you to place a phone call over your LTE connection rather than using the circuit switched 2G or 3G networks which are usually used. In simple terms, voice becomes equivalent to a running application on the user’s phone that works on the LTE data network and hence enables the usage of LTE capabilities to the fullest. It allows the phone operators to streamline their data and voice infrastructure, making it more efficient. It was devised as a result of operators seeking a standardized system for transferring traffic for voice over LTE. Originally LTE was considered for carrying data only, and operators would be able to carry voice either by reverting to 2G / 3G systems or by using VoIP in one form or another.
There are some essential benefits of using VoLTE services. One of the most prominent ones is that users get a great deal of improvement in voice quality. The basic science is to convert voice into IP packets which therefore leads to less data loss and a high definition voice transmission. VoLTE also ensures improved coverage and connectivity for telephone calls. Reports in-fact suggest that voice over LTE can connect calls up to twice as fast as 2G and 3G connections. Also, since most mobile networks currently function in 2G or 3G spectrum, 4G offers a greater room for users leading to faster and cleaner voice transmissions.
A report released by Signals Research Group suggests that VoLTE services offer much-improved battery life compared with using an over-the-top Voice over IP service such as Skype. VoLTE also offers better integration between wireless operators’ cellular voice service and a Wi-Fi calling service. While, it’s possible to make video calls over 4G, much like a Skype call except you’d just use your mobile number and be able to use the regular dialer and call interface, since Volte integrates voice calling to one’s dialer which therefore helps the user to make and receive video calls from anyone else with VoLTE, rather than relying on separate accounts.
Interoperability remains a matter of great concern surrounding the Volte technology right now. With no inter carrier operability and roaming pacts among such carriers, it is not possible for someone using a VoLTE network from one network to make a VoLTE voice call to a subscriber of another network operator who also has a VoLTE device. To meet this obstacle telcos may depend on Circuit Switched Fall Back Mechanism in the near future. This mechanism allows the users to access the Internet using 4G LTE and then switch to a 3G or GSM for voice calling.
Voice on LTE smartphones also have multiple radio support which makes the device push off the LTE network and shifts to 2G/3G network to make calls. A recent report, State of the RAN, claims that VoLTE call drops can be four to five times higher than calls on 2G or 3G networks. The research is based on analysis of more than 25 million voice and data connections from 80 different network operators around the world in the past one year. Therefore, it is the need of the hour to reduce the call drops so that the consumers can make most of the VoLTE technology.
The way forward
As of now, VoLTE has not had a significant impact on global operators’ revenues as these services have not been priced high so as to encourage consumers to start using it. VoLTE adoption is burgeoning and will grow significantly in the coming years. This would majorly be driven by the various benefits offered to both the users and enterprises. The delivery of multimedia services with greater bandwidth and speed will ensure efficient and cost effective voice services in the coming years.
These benefits hold significance for India because operators are seen struggling with plummeting voice revenues and increasing competition from OTT players. VoLTE in India is taking a little time to gain traction the benefits in the form of efficient spectrum utilization will take a few years to materialize. but
Operators now have to develop the necessary technology and solutions that will make VoLTE a success. The lack of Pan-Indian broadband wireless access spectrum is a significant challenge for enabling seamless roaming across India. IMS, the framework that supports VoLTE is not widespread in India which prevents them from leveraging their LTE assets fully which leads to them relying on circuit switched technology to support voice calls. However, it is believed that the LTE and VoLTE adoption curve will be much faster than that of 3G.
The handset manufacturers are ramping up their 4G VoLTE portfolio but none of them have smartphones sub 3.5K-4K in the category. By providing affordable device bundled offers, operators can increase the uptake of 4G and VoLTE. However, it is essential that apart from the technology upgrade it’s also the device strategy that will determine its speed of acceptance and success in the country. More affordable 4G VoLTE enabled smartphones bundled with data plans and less call drops would surely contribute in kick-starting a telecom revolution in the country.
To ensure that the 4G VoLTE becomes a success, it is important that everyone joins hand in making it an irreplaceable technology. From OTT players to the handset manufacturers to the operators – a mutual understanding among them shall help build a healthy technology ecosystem.
By: Vikas Jain, Co-Founder, Micromax