GSMA VoLTE Project Sees First Roll-Out in China

In a recent blog, we discussed how the GSMA’s Network 2020 programme was working with China’s mobile network operators, China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom, to negotiate the technological barriers preventing the deployment of advanced all-IP communications including voice over LTE (VoLTE) across the country.

We are very pleased to report that, as the result of this ongoing work, the country’s largest operator, China Mobile, recently announced the completion of its VoLTE network roll-out, which will cover almost 300 cities and approximately five million subscribers across the country. This is a great result for the programme, which is focused on helping operators from around the world to deliver the all-IP networks that will give consumers access to advanced communications services. This includes instant messaging, live video and real-time photo or file sharing which work natively on any device and network without the need to download an app.

China is the world’s largest mobile market, with 1.3 billion mobile connections, as well as the largest smartphone market, with 629 million connections, according to GSMA Intelligence. China Mobile is making 4G a key strategic priority and is keen to accelerate the full commercial use of VoLTE to provide a higher-quality voice service to its users. They are also committed to working closely with OEMs and other industry partners to ensure that all future devices can support VoLTE. China Mobile currently has 400 million 4G subscribers with China Telecom on 80 million and China Unicom on 63 million respectively.

There have been 78 successful commercial operator VoLTE launches in 42 countries to date, providing subscribers with enhanced calling and superior messaging services, as well as an improved overall user experience. The integration of IP communications in smartphones has also progressed quickly, with 221 VoLTE handset models now available, providing access to rich communications features such as voice, video and messaging.

While China Telecom and China Unicom have yet to officially deploy commercial LTE services, both are active in this space. China Telecom has committed to providing LTE coverage to the vast majority of the country by the end of the year, with VoLTE services being integral to this with a full commercial launch expected in 2017. China Unicom is expected to complete pre-commercial VoLTE deployment in eight cities this month with a full commercial launch expected in 2017.


Interoperability testing

In parallel, the GSMA has worked closely with China’s operators on VoLTE interoperability and interconnection and at a recent meeting The China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT) confirmed that testing with chipset vendors had been successful. We are also working to address the challenges associated with global VoLTE deployments, which have been hindered by regional variations, differing operator commercial implementations and fragmentation in VoLTE interoperability. To resolve this, we recently issued a new technical specification called PRD IR.92 v10.0 that provides a minimum functionality set for all IP-based voice and SMS communications over LTE. It will optimise VoLTE and provide a high degree of commonality and interoperability as well as giving flexibility to operators to deal with unique regional requirements.

China is a particularly vibrant market for mobile at the moment and we look forward to keeping you updated on further developments in the future. To find out more about the GSMA’s Network 2020 programme, go to