As the industry waits with baited breath for reliance Jio to create the landmark disruption, there has been an uproar over VoLTE i.e Voice service over LTE spectrum. Reliance Jio paid Rs 1,658-crore fee to the government for supporting 4G VoLTE on its universal services licence. VoLTE was the final piece that would complete Reliance Jio’s portfolio of services. However is that really a disruptor as it is purported to be?
Voice Telephony on LTE is made possible through apps such as Skype. However, with prohibitive CAPEX on full carpet area coverage – Data connectivity in a wide carpet area will be patchy at best. It means no voice calls when driving or outside city limits.
The 2,300 MHz spectrum, is one of the worst when it comes to creating a large area network. Compared to a GSM/HSPA 900 MHz; LTE on 2300MHz requires exponentially higher number of towers in one shot. Voice is not profitable enough, to support such high infrastructure costs.
Thirdly, Voice requires a better quality of experience. A data subscriber rarely notices fluctuations in speed, but a user in a moving vehicle will expect the same call quality throughout. Thus, for data services can afford lower initial investments and expand incrementally afterward, but for voice telephony, all investments are needed up front.
The one way VoLTE might make commercial sense is if Reliance acquires or partners with an existing mobile operator, such that its current 2G or 3G network becomes the fallback network that will carry voice calls or data when 4G airwaves aren’t around. That appears to be the only way Voice can happen for Reliance Jio. (Or alternatively, a tie up with Reliance (Anil Ambani) could provide Mukesh Ambani the where with all to su[pport voicee services).
Thus VoLTE under the current understanding is not the disruption as many earlier thought it to be.