‘With 4G and LTE, there will be a shift to voice on data’

Rajesh Kurup Mumbai | Updated on January 17, 2018 Published on August 31, 2016

GURDEEP SINGH, CEO (Consumer Business), Reliance Communications

For ₹1, customers will be able to talk for 300 minutes, says RCom’s Gurdeep Singh

Reliance Communications (RCom) has launched a quirkily named app-to-app calling service ‘Call Drops Se Chhutkara’ offer, betting big on the over-the-top (OTT) platform. Contrary to other players, who were lamenting loss of revenues to OTT players, RCom expects a gradual but certain shift to app-based calling.

The new plan enables Reliance 4G LTE customers to make global calls through various data-based apps such as WhatsApp, FB Messenger, Skype, Google Hangouts and Viber, among others. Subscribers will also be able to use the Reliance 4G LTE data network for Internet surfing, movie downloads, music streaming and other entertainment activities.

In an interview with BusinessLine, RCom’s CEO for Consumer Business, Gurdeep Singh, delves deep into the company’s approach on app-to-app calling and why voice calls will soon move to data. Excerpts:

RCom has launched ‘Call Drops Se Chhutkara’ in Delhi-NCR following the launch of ‘Calling Ka Naya Tareeka’ in Gujarat. Why is the company stressing on chat and calling apps?

Chat apps and social media apps are among the most used apps today in terms of time spent on mobile by a consumer. Chat apps are now becoming the nerve centre for entertainment, engagement, social-connect and, lately, e-commerce integration, like ordering food, taxis and shopping. Thus, we believe that instant connect by pressing a call button through apps will be a significant shift, a trend that is growing exponentially.

The potential of this can be measured directly with the exponential growth in smartphone adoption and users of popular chat apps such as WhatsApp, Viber, Line, WeChat, FB Messenger and Skype. In the past few years we have witnessed the death of SMS as adoption of chat apps increased and, now, with a far superior data experience on 4G LTE, the ‘Voice on Data’ shift will happen.

In terms of pricing differentials, what is the logic behind this move and how do you see this being taken by prospective customers?

We are excited to redefine voice calling in India with our offers. For just ₹1, customers can talk for 300 minutes anywhere in India and globally; that makes it affordable for mass adoption.

Typically, with our recently-launched ₹39 pack, a one-minute app-to-app call will cost 13 paise only. This is almost 60 per cent lower than the prevailing voice call rates in the market.

What is the idea behind RCom’s move to offer an app-to-app voice calling plans? Are you trying to create a new market segment?

RCom wants to drive the emerging customer trend of ‘Voice on Data’, which is riding on a rise in adoption of smartphones and apps usage, Telcos have to evolve their business model. On the Reliance 4G LTE network in the 850 MHz band, HD quality calling and instant connectivity will provide an unparalleled user experience.

We see an increasing number of people embracing app-to-app calling and expect exponential growth on this front.

Wouldn’t this eat into traditional voice revenues?

This will pose a great challenge for incumbent operators, who have significant revenues in traditional voice services and with the growing adoption of this consumer trend, the pressure to sustain voice revenue will increase on them.

Does the handset ecosystem support such a shift? Are quality 4G handsets available at an optimal price range that will enable this kind of movement?

Certainly. 4G handsets today are available from price points of ₹3,000 and upwards. Chipset technologies are converging and all future handsets will support multiple spectrum bands, with all new smartphones being multi-band devices.

We see this as a strong trigger for growth of the smartphone market and, consequently, for innovative and compelling offers such as the ones we have launched.

Is this a precursor to other similar offers on the 4G platform, wherein we will see data services being used in a creative manner to eat into other traditional revenue streams?

Yes, it is. We are constantly innovating to bring out propositions that bring about a change in lifestyles. This is an ongoing process at Reliance to innovate and develop markets based on emerging customer trends.

Published on August 31, 2016
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