While Zain in Kuwait recently became the first telecoms operator to launch commercial voice services on 5G standalone networks, T-Mobile US has followed suit in a selection of cities including Portland, Oregon, and Salt Lake City. It plans further rollout of the service to other parts of the US throughout 2022.
5G voice services over the New Radio (NR) standard are an important industry milestone for several reasons. It offers higher spectral efficiency, shifts voice traffic from legacy networks to 5G (allowing spectrum to be refarmed), and improves the consumer experience by eliminating the need to close a browser or app to make/receive calls. Momentum should continue to build as operators roll out standalone 5G networks – an important and encouraging trend considering the enhanced service performance versus non-standalone networks.
The same benefits of 5G voice also apply for VoLTE, reminding us of the importance of scaling interconnect agreements for 4G voice, which have been languishing in some regions.