Two of India’s largest mobile service providers are racing to provide voice over 4G LTE (News - Alert) on the 2300 MHz band.
Telecom Lead is reporting that that Bharata Airtel (News - Alert), one of India’s largest mobile carriers, is seeking approval to test voice services on its 4G LTE networks. Currently 4G LTE is only being used for data services, according to Telecom Lead.
This request comes as one of its rivals, Infotel Broadband, a carrier owned by Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries, prepares for government approval to test voice services on its own 4G LTE platform. The Indian Department of Telecom has recommended that Infotel be allowed to test 10,000 connections for 4G voice services, according to Telecom Lead.
“Infotel Broadband has deployed all its resources to R&D in perfecting high definition quality voice over Long Term Evolution (LTE) with the help of in-house team of young and bright people,” Infotel Broadband told the Indian Department of Telecom in a letter earlier in the year, according to The Hindu. “This will permit consumers to experience unified communication using single device and using our own built application platform.”
Infotel Broadband will be rolling out its services in the financial and capital cities of Mumbai and Delhi, in addition to the smaller city of Jamnagar in the business-heavy state of Gujarat.
Airtel has the advantage of complete, nationwide 2G and 3G networks while offering services on its 4G network, Telecom Lead. The carrier has the flexibility and choice of implementing either or both 2G/3G and VoLTE depending on 4G LTE device penetration in India, which comprises only a tiny fraction of the overall Indian cellular phone market.
Currently, Airtel has 4G LTE data services available in the urban centers of Kolkata, Bengaluru (Bangalore) and the Mumbai sister city of Pune. Telecom Lead, however, is reporting that 4G uptake is growing slowly due to high prices and lack of availability of 4G smartphones.
Analysts expect that 4G LTE will appeal to Indians more once it can also be used with voice.
The move by Airtel shows that 4G spectrum holders want to offer more than just high-speed data services over their valuable spectrum. The problem is that existing Indian regulations, long the frustration of Indian businesses in general, do not currently allow 4G spectrum to be used for voice services.
Both Airtel and Infotel are pinning their hopes on a new telecom policy that does allow voice on the spectrum, however, according to Telecom Lead. A change in law is expected to come into effect in 2013, and the changes should allow companies to offer all forms of communication services on the spectrum once they have applied for a unified license.
A third competitor in the Indian market, Videocon, has said it will launch 4G in 2013 after winning six telecom circles in the recently concluded spectrum auction, noted Telecom Lead.
The Economics Times reports that voice services are not available in the 2300 MHz band, the frequency on which 4G or Long Term Evolution (LTE) services will be offered in India. But voice facilities are available on other 4G bands like the 700 MHz that are used in the US and Europe.
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