We first discussed the speed of operator Voice over Long Term Evolution (VoLTE) deployments back in June when there seemed to be a never-ending parade of news outlining operator commitments and plans. Three months on and we are starting to see some real traction in the market with 65 LTE operator network launches already this year taking the total number to 331 deployments in 112 countries. That number is expected to surpass 350 by the end of the year according to GSMA Intelligence, with over 75 joint VoLTE and RCS combined operator launches expected as well. VoLTE is a win-win for operators as it not only delivers richer, high quality, multi-media voice services, but it can also be deployed in parallel with video calls over LTE and RCS for enriched IP communication propositions, providing reach, reliability and richness to customers and improved network economics for operators.
The US has been quick to drive LTE deployments and adoption with AT&T and T-Mobile having launched VoLTE services earlier this year and Verizon Wireless launching just last week. Verizon started rolling out its Advance Calling service which delivers HD voice and video calling as well as standard voice and data services over LTE on compatible smartphones. It’s currently only available to subscribers on Verizon’s 4G-LTE network and on only two handsets at the moment but more are expected to be added in the coming weeks. The service will also allow for video call hand-off between the operator’s 4G network and a Wi-Fi connection.
Verizon added Apple’s latest iPhone models, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus to its smartphone portfolio, both of which support VoLTE services and should go some way to driving widespread consumer awareness of the service. They represent the 58th and 59th VoLTE-compatible devices available globally to date. Over in Asia, SingTel unveiled 4G Clearvoice, billed as the first commercial 300Mbps service for smartphones and 3 Hong Kong announced a high-definition (HD) voice facility on its VoLTE network. Even Google are getting in on the act with the rollout of its Android 4.4.4 KitKat update that prepares devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S5 and LG G2 for VoLTE technology.
The industry is already delivering on consumer demands for richer, faster and more reliable mobile speeds and operators in particular are driving innovation on voice services – their original core product. It’s still early days of course but it is important that operators ensure interoperability to gain scale and improve customer experience. The GSMA’s Network 2020 programme works with operators around the world to reduce complexity and fragmentation and promote scale and interoperability with the ultimate aim of delivering better consumer experiences.