Friday, December 9, 2011

Voice over LTE is the future. But what kind and when?



We all know that VoLTE is coming. It is crucial to operators, which view the technology as an opportunity to take communication services such as voice and video-calling to the next level in the ‘data-only’ LTE market.

But when is it coming?  And where?

We looked for answers in a couple of recent webinars. Last week leading ICT players including the GSMA, Intel, Huawei and Ericsson participated in an IMTC webinar. Dan Warren from the GSMA said getting SMS and voice to work while roaming was challenging but he expects development of VoLTE to be complete during early 2012.

This is reassuring. After all the One Voice initiative led by the GSMA began leading the mobile industry towards a single, global solution for voice over LTE way back in February 2010.  

Could Japan’s NTT DoCoMo be the first out of the gate? It was an early adopter of LTE technologies. Although its LTE applications are data-only and no voice traffic is carried over the 4G network conflicting reports online state the operator has plans to introduce VoLTE services as early as March 2012.

Conversely, John Donovan, AT&T Chief Technology Officer, announced the operator will wait until 2013 to launch its VoLTE service - after the standard has had time to strengthen.

Regardless of exactly when it happens, what will ordinary people get out of VoLTE?

During another webinar broadcast by Light Reading yesterday, Gabriel Brown a Senior Analyst from Heavy Reading, said that even though the definition only specifies a minimum set of services that must be supported, there are also opportunities to support HD voice, video calling and a lot more.

Brown said VoLTE is the target voice solution for virtually all operators with LTE networks. If he’s right and VoLTE is the foundation service for all-IP mobile networks it should continue to grow in utility and functionality over time.

Carl Anderson from Anritsu said the GSMA recommendations are being addressed by many different companies, in a much more coordinated approach than we have seen with earlier technology deployments. 

The webinars presented a compelling argument that VoLTE will revolutionize telephony, though it will be much easier to get people to believe in the message once it is available in the market.

13 comments:

  1. Why aren't you looking at Verizon in the US, their plans seem to be much more aggressive than any other's, or?

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  2. That seems to be the view -- also MetroPCS and the Koreans are aggresive on VoLTE.

    There are levels to it, however. Do you want to suport SR-VCC and emergency calling in LTE? VZW doesn't need the former and, I believe, has a work-around for the later. Others need/want to wait to resolve these issues.

    Also, it seems the device chipset will ultimately have an impact on perfomance of the VoLTE service. In that sense the timeline is somewhat dependent on Qualcomm -- which seems to be leading the feature-race in that respect.

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  3. Is it a problem for VoLTE to be an IMS-based specification, given that many operators are dead against anything involving IMS and its claimed limitations?

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  4. @Anonymous -- Not really. Tier 1 operators have decided to deploy IMS in the mobile core. Many are underway already.

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  5. When IMS was launched expectations were high in the industry. Immediate success was not fulfilled at that time, but today there is no doubt that IMS is right in there with voice and SMS – at the heart of operator’s business. This is as Gabriel wrote being reflected in operator plans, nowadays related to anything from migrations from traditional PSTN networks, possibilities of adding new value to existing or new services, to the great momentum around VoLTE.

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  6. IMS is still at the core of US operators plans. Its going to be interesting to see how that develops in coming years.

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