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VoLTE and HD Voice Are Live: T-Mobile Launches Nationwide

VoLTE Voice Calls

You may not have heard of Voice Over LTE or VoLTE, but it’s currently being tested and rolling out to cellular networks. LTE (Long Term Evolution) is the new standard for data on wireless networks and it is growing at a rapid pace throughout the globe on virtually all wireless providers. Packet switched networks are the only supported type for LTE deployments. Current cell voice networks function as legacy circuit switched types. This presents a potential costly problem for providers as they would have to maintain a network for mobile data and a separate network for voice.

Enter VoLTE. It will enable voice calls over the LTE data network. This allows the providers to potentially maintain a single network that is based on a near global standard. Currently, many providers are having to support multiple networks at a major cost, which is passed on to the consumer.

Verizon has stated that they will phase out their current voice and 3G CDMA networks by 2023. AT&T is planning to drop its 2G GSM network by 2017. Besides the single network cost, VoLTE should offer superior voice quality compared the current technology and rival or surpass land line quality.

T-Mobile has just announced at CES that their network is fully operational for HD Voice on select phones.

“T-Mobile today announced that HD Voice is now available on its network nationwide, dramatically improving in-call voice quality for customers with capable smartphones. Customers will hear a more true-to-life voice quality that’s fuller and more natural-sounding with significantly reduced background noise from street traffic, wind and crowd noise. To experience HD Voice, both parties on the call must use capable T-Mobile 4G smartphones such as the HTC OneS, Nokia Astound and Samsung Galaxy S® III on T-Mobile’s HD Voice-enabled nationwide network. T-Mobile is the first U.S. wireless provider to launch HD Voice nationwide.”

It was not detailed how they are providing the HD Voice, but the LTE network for T-Mobile is also getting a jump start.  At the same event they said they will “launch an advanced LTE network that will reach 100 million people by mid-year and 200 million people by end of year”

In the U.S, MetroPCS  is the only provider with a  live VoLTE network and capable phone in the LG connect 4G. Many believe Sprint is offering VoLTE service as HD Voice, but they are delivering the service over CDMA 1x-Advanced for now.

The Sprint LTE network is just getting starting after a failed WiMax build out. When the iPhone 5 was announced for Sprint without HD Voice, many consumers were confused and upset. It was not Sprint’s decision to leave out the Apple crowd, but the iPhone 5 does not support the technology. Current HD Voice only supports 1x Advanced and it is a proprietary Qualcomm extension for older 2G CDMA networks.

If you have used an LTE phone you probably noticed the battery life suffer. The 4G technology is very aggressive with its current iteration.  Spirent Communications has tested the battery life for VoLTE on what is believed to be the MetroPCS network and the results are not shocking. Talk time compared to existing voice networks is cut in half.

Current users of LTE can turn off the battery chugging service and still function, but if there is only LTE available the battery life is a major concern. Of course we are still very early into LTE technology and we are 5 to 10 years away from being on solely LTE networks.  By that time we could have an entirely different technology that is both efficient and productive.

It is still too early to tell if HD voice or VoLTE will take off and be a compelling feature, but the start is going to be slow and filled with incompatibility in the U.S, let alone the world.

VoLTE’s value-add proposition

Ericsson’s Ian Koh makes the case for VoLTE adoption — not just as a voice app for LTE, but also as a rich VAS enabler.

Voice over LTE (VoLTE)

This video explains Voice over LTE (VoLTE). How the signaling is established in the EPC & IMS core networks. It gives examples of different bearers being established and how the correct QoS is configured. From a high level it will give the viewer the overall picture of the interactions that take place between key elements of the new LTE/4G networks within the EPC & IMS cores.

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