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#MWC2013: Airtel To Offer Voice Services To LTE Customers

Following the telecom commission’s approval allowing telecom operators to offer voice services over 4G networks earlier this month, Bharti Airtel has announced its plans to offer voice services for its 4G, TD-LTE customers in Pune, apparently through its existing GSM network.

It is deploying Nokia Siemens Networks’ Circuit Switched FallBack (CSFB) voice solution, which allows the network to transfer customers to the GSM platform to make and receive calls, and still get data over 4G. This should, in all probability, not have needed the Telecom Commission’s approval, since the Universal Access Service License should be treated as technology agnostic, and switching customers between 2G and 4G networks should never have been needed. Also, in that sense, this doesn’t appear to be voice over LTE. We contacted Airtel for more comments on this deployment at the Mobile World Congress, where this was announced, but the company declined to comment beyond beyond the press release.

One doesn’t know how many 4G customers Airtel has, if any. It isn’t something they mention in their earnings calls or quarterly reports.

This launch makes things interesting because 2G is superior for voice, while 4G, for data, and Airtel’s 2G+4G offering will compete with Reliance Industries’ 4G services which will seek to offer voice over 4G networks alone, where the voice experience may not be as good…not that 2G in India is spectacular, what with poor network connectivity even in the cities, and call drops galore.

We’d also like to take this opportunity to remind Reliance Industries that the 4G/BWA auction ended on June 11th 2010.

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