The voice over LTE (VoLTE) era is getting started in earnest. Light Reading reports that AT&T will launch the service on Friday in areas of Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin. HD VoLTE will be available on the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini.
The carrier and vendor community is apparently sure that VoLTE is ready. Mobile World Live reports that NTT DoCoMo in Japan said it will launch services next month. In Hong Kong, according to Hardware Zone, HKT and Huawei Technologies are launching a VoLTE service also in June.
VoLTE, which carries voice services over LTE, is an ideal consumer product. In a bit of a contrarian piece, Broadsoft President and CEO Michael Tessler argues that the prudent approach for carriers is to enter the enterprise market first. Tessler’s take is that the enterprises’ desire to put sophisticated unified communications structures in place and the carriers’ desire to deepen relationships with those enterprises as over-the-top (OTT) providers offer competitive products both make it prudent to jump on the business market first:
Enterprise demand for mobile and cloud UC solutions, a $26 billion market opportunity according to International Data Corporation (IDC), is only increasing in value and popularity as these services are provided over increasingly faster network speeds. Rather than focusing solely on traditional voice and messaging, mobile network operators must meet the demands of the mobile enterprise by delivering UC applications over LTE and offering end-users a superior user experience made possible by LTE network investments.
Whether the business or consumer side comes first is important, of course. What is even more important, however, is the great efficiencies of using the same protocol for both voice and data. This frees up the 3G spectrum that had been dedicated to only voice. FierceTelecom’s Sue Marek suggests that the great capabilities of LTE networks, especially when VoLTE becomes part of the mix, will fundamentally shake up the telecommunications market:
But many believe that voice is ripe for a "renaissance" because little has been done to innovate or improve voice services over the years. Rich communications services (RCS) offers operators the ability to do things like add instant messaging and live video to a voice call, and share that across the network.
This spring is just the beginning of VoLTE’s coming out party. Other creative voice applications such as HD Voice will follow.