Reliance Jio is no longer the only VoLTE service provider.
Voice and data has become cheaper but the quality of service is the same.
Telcos need to invest in better infrastructure.
Thanks to Reliance Jio, the telecom space in India is now witness to cut-throat competition. Years ago, with the entry of Reliance India Mobile, India witnessed a slash in voice tariff from Rs 17 a minute, to under Re 1 for a minute. With the advent of Jio, we saw free voice. It’s only natural for the other telecom players to match Jio’s offering with unlimited local and national calls, bundled with high-speed data. It appears with the increasing competition between operators that we, as consumers, will finally have a level playing field in the telecom sector. Here’s a look at the current scenario.
VoLTE no longer exclusive to Reliance Jio
When Jio entered the market, the highlight of the its offering was that it is a 4G-only network, with support for VoLTE. For those unaware, VoLTE allows for HD voice calling. In case telecom operators such as Idea, Vodafone and Airtel, the high-speed mobile data is offered using 3G / 4G network, but when it comes to making outgoing calls, the network falls back to 2G. The same does not happen in case of Jio, as it does not have 2G / 3G spectrum. And so, all calls go through 4G VoLTE.
For over a year, Jio enjoyed being the exclusive VoLTE operator, but now Airtel and Vodafone, both have started rolling out their VoLTE services. Airtel has rolled out 4G VoLTE services in Karnataka and Mumbai, whereas Vodafone has started the rollout in Mumbai, Delhi and Gujarat. It is a gradual rollout, and will take some time till we have pan-India coverage.
Ongoing price war is good for consumer
While competition between telcos isn’t new, it is eventually the costumers who are benefited. Like I mentioned earlier, I remember the days when my father used a Pager, and also the first mobile phone he purchased. This was sometime in early 2000, where outgoing calls were charged at Rs 17 per minute, incoming calls were also chargeable and an SMS used to cost somewhere around Rs 5 per message.
But as the mobile phone adoption increased, and new telcos entered the market, the call rates have significantly came down. First incoming calls became free, then roaming charges were waved off, outgoing call rates dropped to Re 1 per minute or lower, and now we have plans with unlimited local and national outgoing calls.
I also remember when I first started using a mobile phone, I had GPRS subscription and it would allow me to visit wap-enabled sites. Slowly, we moved to EDGE and 3G, and as the smartphone era started, I used to pay Rs 250 per month for 1GB data. Today, thanks to OTT services and social networking, my daily data consumption goes beyond 1.5GB, and I don’t pay more than Rs 500 per month for 2GB daily data. Yes, Reliance Jio’s entry has ushered the digital era. But what’s next?
Quality of Service is key to consumer satisfaction
All said and done, there is no point of having a plan with unlimited voice and data if the network reception is poor. And this is exactly the key pain point telcos should address next. When I first got a Reliance Jio connection when it was in the testing phase, I was simply amazed with the connectivity. Irrespective of whether I was sitting on a terrace with open sky above, or in some corner of the room, the connection speed was everything to brag about.
With 2G and 3G, streaming HD or Full HD resolution videos on YouTube or other services was a challenge. It was annoying to see the video buffer, then play, again buffer. But with 4G on Jio, even full HD videos would stream as smooth as butter, and downloading heavy files was a breeze too. I remember downloading 22GB game The Crew on Steam in less than five hours.
But those were the glory days, and now after the company has garnered over 160 million subscribers, the 4G data speed has considerably reduced. It is so bad that inside the house, I barely get 1Mbps, whereas keeping the phone or MiFi router in the balcony stretches the speed to about 5Mbps or more. And it’s not just Jio, the same goes with Airtel and Vodafone too. I remember a conversation with my boss. There was a time when I would post speed test results showing speed of over 20Mbps, but one day, when I was working from home, the network failed. That was the time I realized, I need a service provider I could count on.
Inside my house, Vodafone has a good network reception, but Airtel heavily struggles to show one network bar, same with MTNL’s Dolphin. But then, as I reach office (which is on the 20th floor), Jio has seamless connectivity, Airtel is better, but Vodafone network is a pain. Me and three of my colleagues all have a Vodafone connection, and we all use high-end phones, including the iPhone X, iPhone 8 Plus, Galaxy Note 8 and OnePlus 5T. And despite that, we struggle getting 3G connectivity. In fact, most times, the network falls back to 2G and mobile data doesn’t work at all.
To solve the network troubles, companies will have to invest in better quality infrastructure, and if it also means deploying more cell cites, telcos shouldn’t hesitate. It will be interesting to see how operators can tackle issues such as call drops, interconnectivity and poor reception. But it is high time they focus on quality, else even the loyal consumers won’t mind porting out.