The next chapter in the battle between the telecom operators in India seems to be well and truly underway. Vodafone announced on Monday that it was starting the rollout of VoLTE services in India, starting with Gujarat—Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Karnataka circles will be added soon. VoLTE, or Voice over Long-Term Evolution, is the method by which mobile service providers utilize the 4G network for voice calls as well, instead of just data.
We saw a sneak peek of this late last year, when Airtel announced that it was rolling out VoLTE services in some parts of the country to compete with the VoLTE services offered by Reliance Jio over their 4G network. Airtel currently offers VoLTE in Mumbai, Maharashtra, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh & Telangana, Karnataka and Chennai circles.
So, what exactly is VoLTE? Most of us would have upgraded to 4G SIM cards for our phones by now, and taking advantage of perhaps the better speeds available for web browsing, video and music streaming as well as downloads, compared with 3G connections. Till now, the 4G network was used for just that—handling data. In parallel, the voice calls that you made and received were pushed via the 3G or 2G networks.
The biggest advantage of handling voice calls over the 4G network is that the greater bandwidth allows for better quality voice calls. Operators claim that these are high definition (HD) quality voice calls. There will be lesser call drops, greater voice clarity, and operators also claim that calls get connected significantly faster, in comparison with standard voice calls over 3G and 2G networks. While battery life of the phone you use may somewhat improve as well if you have good 4G connectivity, it will surely have a positive impact overall as the phone will now not have to keep switching from 2G or 3G every time you make a call and back to 4G again when you start using an app or browsing the web.
There are limitations too. The primary restriction would be on whether both participants in the call have VoLTE connectivity. If the call recipient doesn’t, then the call you make will still remain a standard voice call.
Then there is the issue of charges. At present, Reliance Jio, Airtel and now Vodafone are not charging separately for VoLTE calls—the calls will be charged as per the existing voice plan and would not consume any additional data.
Now for the most important question—will your existing phone work with VoLTE, if and when your mobile service provider rolls this option out in your telecom circle? Chances are, yes. Let us look at some examples of phones that are compatible with VoLTE to reaffirm that you may not necessarily need to buy an expensive new phone—the OnePlus 3/3T/5/5T, Xiaomi Redmi Note 4/Mi Max/Mi A1/Redmi Y1/MIX 2, Apple iPhone SE/6/6 Plus/7/7 Plus/8/8 Plus/X, Samsung Galaxy A5/A7/A8/A9/J2/J7/ON8/S6 and the Nokia 2/6/8, to name a few. To get VoLTE to work on your phone, you will need to have a SIM card that is 4G-capable (if you don’t have that already), and activate VoLTE services for your connection.
VoLTE will be the next big feature that could significantly improve the voice calls experience this year, once the rollout is wide enough and users sign up in large numbers.