Airtel is testing Voice over LTE (VoLTE) in 5 cities, and plans to do full roll-out by the end of this year, Bharti Airtel’s Chief Executive Officer Gopal Vittal was quoted as saying in this Economic Times report. A spokesperson from Airtel confirmed with MediaNama that the company is testing VoLTE in 5 cities, but did not provide any further details.

A VoLTE call is hosted and routed differently when compared to a normal call. VoLTE calls are routed on top of an IP-based network. But on VoLTE, the packets are routed on top of a GSM network (LTE), and not necessarily the Internet. Traditionally, telcos use switch-based networks like public switched networks (PSTN) to route calls which may or may not use the Internet/VoIP in the backhaul. VoLTE, however, provides better quality calls and connects calls faster.

VoLTE also requires certain pre-specified standards to be followed and works only on 4G handsets that have been configured to run VoLTE standard.  Jio currently provides VoLTE calls only on 485 4G smartphone models in India. It is not clear which all devices support Airtel’s VoLTE service, but Apple does list Airtel, along with Jio and Vodafone as supported LTE providers.

DoT’s new law eases installation of LTE networks

Note that the DoT had recently relaxed norms regarding installation of media gateway controller and SoftSwitches. These devices interconnect VoIP calls and calls arising from PSTN networks and are a key component for LTE networks. The new relaxed law allows telcos to install these devices anywhere within the country’s geographical limits, as opposed to the earlier regulation which allowed restricted installation within authorized telecom circle limits.

By extension, it’s now easier for telcos to roll out newer standards like VoLTE and VoIP in India. But as we pointed out earlier, VoLTE is at a nascent stage in India since the devices that support the standard are yet to penetrate in the country while Jio provides VoLTE for Jio-to-Jio calls only. Airtel and other competitors are still rolling out these networks and an overall VoLTE support in the mobile operator ecosystem is yet to develop.

Note: The story has been updated with comments from Airtel