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TMCNet:  Bharti Airtel seeks government nod for testing 4G voice services [India Business] [Times of India]

[December 27, 2012]

Bharti Airtel seeks government nod for testing 4G voice services [India Business] [Times of India]

(Times of India Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) NEW DELHI: Bharti Airtel, the country's largest mobile phone company by customers and sales, has sought government's approval for testing voice services on its fourth generation networks.

The move is significant as Reliance Industries-owned Infotel Broadband, the only company that has pan-India 4G airwaves, is set to get the telecom department's (DoT's) approval for testing voice services on this technology platform.

ET recently reported that the DoT committee looking into RIL's demand had recommended that the company be allowed to test 10,000 connections (for 4G voice services) and that it also be allotted these many mobile numbers.

Currently, Bharti is the only telco that has launched high-end data services on the 4G platform.

Earlier this year, the company had bought a 49% stake in US chipmaker's 4G businesses in India to enable it to quickly launch services in four zones, including the key markets of Delhi and Mumbai, where it did not have 4G permits, making it a serious competitor to Infotel Broadband.

Bharti now owns 4G permits in eight circles. It has already launched commercial operations on this platform in Kolkata, Pune and Bangalore.

Bharti's move to seek permission to test voice calls indicates that 4G spectrum holders want to combine this facility with highspeed data services on this platform.

Existing regulations don't allow 4G spectrum winners to offer voice services, but both Bharti and Infotel are pinning their hopes on the new telecom policy, which is slated to come into effect from 2013, and states that companies can offer all forms of communication services after migrating to a unified licence.

At present, 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 the country. But voice facilities are available on other 4G bands like the 700 MHz that are used in the US and Europe.

Bharti declined to answer specific queries on whether the company had sought DoT's approval, but said it was 'in the process of formulating test plans for voice over 4G as per the 3GPP standard'.

"Airtel has the advantage of pan-India 2G and 3G networks while offering services on its 4G network. We are in the process of formulating test plans for voice over 4G as per the 3GPP standard. Airtel has the flexibility and choice of implementing either or both -- 2G/3G and VoLTE -- depending on the device penetration in India, going forward," the Bharti spokesperson said.

Infotel too had recently informed the government that it had indigenously developed what it termed VoLTE -- voice over LTE -- and said a trial would be helpful in maturing this technology platform.

It also said that the trials would involve RIL employees, consultants and technology partners using these services, while adding that the company would pay interconnect charges to link its network to that of other mobile phone companies for testing purposes. Infotel Broadband is expected to shake up the telecom market in the same way as it did about a decade ago when it rolled out lowcost mobile services.

(c) 2012 Bennett, Coleman & Company Limited

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