Airtel, which was the first incumbent telco to roll out 4G VoLTE services, is now gearing up to phase out 3G and convert its existing users to the new network. While heavy investments have been made by Airtel in 3G, which still accounts for nearly 60 percent of telco revenues, 4G is fast becoming the standard on mobile phones. The company plans to migrate all its 3G users across the country to VoLTE over the next few months, according to reports. However, no specific time-frame is known. Also Read - Reliance JioFiber plans with free Voot Select subscription: Check plans, price, and other benefitsAlso Read - Airtel introduces new postpaid plans with more data, refreshes Family postpaid plans too
Airtel has close to 280 million users on its network and a majority of them are on 3G. Hence, a mass conversion would require efforts from the telco. “What we need is that every base site that we have, we need to add a new technology so that the rollout that we are doing currently is almost entirely on 4G. Our 3G rollout is over and I would say 3G in anyway in 2-3 years, we will have to shut it down. Our 3G network will also shift to 4G. And these are mostly software switches,” an official was quoted as saying. ALSO READ: Airtel deploys India s first 5G capable technology Also Read - JioFiber broadband plans with free Netflix subscription: Check plans, price, data benefits, more
This comes at a time when all Indian cellular operators, including Airtel, are investing in 5G technologies and partnering with international companies to make them ready for the next phase of telecom revolution. The Indian government too has set up a committee to further the cause. While 5G readiness is a priority, it is 4G that is likely to driver revenues for telcos in 2018. Experts estimate that about 85 percent of Indian smartphone users would be on 4G LTE networks by next year. ALSO READ: The buzz is great, but 5G on Indian phones is still a distant dream
Much of this shift has been triggered by Reliance Jio, which has made 4G truly accessible and affordable in the last one year. All telcos have been compelled to slash tariffs and offer potfuls of 4G data in order to curb the migration of subscribers to Jio network. As a result, both their toplines and bottomlines have suffered in 2017. Now, communication and advertising to make 3G users switcgh to 4G LTE would likely incur more costs. But given that most smartphones shipped today are 4G-ready, and even feature phones are now 4G-enabled, it is imperative for networks to upgrade their users.