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A Three-pillar Technology Strategy to Succeed in the Indian VoLTE Market

Deepak Mahajan, Executive Director, India and SAsia, Sicap

When the greenfield operator, Reliance Jio entered the Indian mobile market in September 2016 with its 4G and Voice over LTE (VoLTE) offering, nobody could predict what was coming.

Jio’s initially free service evolved to ultra-cheap price plans combined with give-away 4G handsets and ramped up Jio’s subscriber base rapidly to 100 million. This disrupted the market, triggered the consolidation process and ushered in a data revolution in the country.

In 2018, Jio passed the 250 million mark and is expected to exceed 400 million subscribers in 2020. This would be equal to 45% of India’s population in the 14-to-80 years age group.

Incumbents, Airtel, Vodafone and Idea are pushing for the same but their large 2G and 3G network infrastructures and subscriber bases are costly, and slow to transition into 4G and VoLTE. Unless the subscribers are willing to switch to 4G plans and devices, they can’t shut down the old networks.

VoLTE Promises Better Telecom Economics

Despite the painful transition involved, VoLTE would have an impact on the incumbent operators’ economics. VoLTE will not increase the minutes of usage by definition, and thereby hardly increases the ARPU. However, a native IP-based network and a single infrastructure shared between voice and data will allow the operators to slash down operational costs associated with voice traffic.

How to Speed up Transition to VoLTE? The incumbent telcos of India still have a large 2G subscriber base. Their number one challenge is to find smart ways to move this enormous user-base to 4G. There are plenty of affordable VoLTE phones available; but how to get the transition process moving where people upgrade their subscriptions and SIMs and buy new phones?

VoLTE Entitlement Speeds up VoLTE Go-to-Market The lack of automated and standardized VoLTE device configuration functionalities has slowed down the adoption of the Voice over LTE service for several years. Without the correct service configuration, VoLTE phones cannot connect correctly to the operators’ VoLTE network.

With Sicap’s VoLTE Device Entitlement technology, the incumbent operators in India can avoid the VoLTE device configuration problems.

Device Entitlement is a functionality in a mobile network to inform a mobile device about which service capabilities the device owner can use with his or her carrier. It enables the device to enforce access only to the allowed services.

Image: Simplified illustration of the standard VoLTE Device Entitlement Process.

There are multiple entitlement methods and standards. Google Android and Microsoft Windows Mobile have implemented device entitlement according to GSMA’s next generation communication services standards. Apple have opted for a proprietary device entitlement process for iOS devices.

VoLTE Device Entitlement provides a single solution for authentication of subscribers and devices, and an over-the-air service configuration. This simplification saves costs in VoLTE deployment and operations, enables VoLTE international roaming and speeds up Go-to-Market with new devices. The frictionless VoLTE user-experience speeds up service adoption.

In addition to VoLTE, Device Entitlement technology also provides a simple solution for Video over LTE (ViLTE), Voice over WiFi and Rich Communications Service (RCS) configurations.

Context-aware Customer Engagement Accelerates VoLTE Adoption Another technology Indian incumbent operators must tap on is real-time device detection and context-aware customer engagement automation. The concept enables to accelerate the adoption of 4G and VoLTE services.

Image: Sicap TargetMe solution for context-aware customer engagement automation.

The simple idea behind this concept is to identify “low hanging fruits” in the network, i.e. those subscribers who already have a VoLTE capable phone in use but still have a non-4G subscription for some reason. Whenever a subscriber of this profile is detected in the network, he or she can be placed into an online nurturing program, which aims to sell an upgrade to a 4G and VoLTE subscription through automated offers and proposals delivered on SMS.

Similarly, those subscribers who have already bought a 4G-enabled SIM but are stuck with a non-VoLTE phone can be detected in the network. This subscriber segment can be placed into another nurturing program, which aims to sell 4G device upgrades.

This concept, which combines automated device detection, customer segmentation and context-aware customer engagement over-the-air is the way for the incumbents in India to capture the fast-moving VoLTE opportunities and accelerate the 4G transition.

Automated Self-care Chatbots Get Subscribers Going with New Services 

Chatbots have proven their benefits in the first line in telecom customer service; they save customers’ time, decrease support costs, and enable agents to deliver more meaningful human-to-human experiences. In India, a user-friendly transformation towards a fully automated telecom customer service could help incumbents to educate their subscribers on VoLTE faster, and to compete with better customer experience.

Any company can now build a chatbot in no time. However, automating a telecom self-care service bot that scales to meet the needs of millions of customers can be challenging, without an experienced partner and AI powering the bot.

Image: Customer care chatbot requires tight integration with the telecom environment.

VoLTE users encounter dozens of different kinds of problems, and the solution to their particular problem can differ, depending on the device and operating system involved. Today, call centers need support content for hundreds of solutions, depending on the particular problem in question. Chatbots thrive in these environments, due to their ability to provide support to identify the customer’s specific problem and provide a personalized solution directed at that problem.

In Conclusion…

India is expected to have 780 million voice over LTE subscribers by 2023.The only way to win in the world’s fastest growing VoLTE market is to harness the real-time data available on the networks and devices, to deploy more intelligent technologies than the competitors, and to help customers to get up to speed with 4G and VoLTE quickly! For more information on these solutions please visit and visit us at MWC 2019 at 7 K 61, Hall 7.