The 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks that are springing up across the country are delivering data services. To date, the packets that are being delivered exclude those that comprise voice calls.
One of the secondary goals of the LTE sector — after the mass launch of networks using the technology we are witnessing today — is to introduce Voice Over LTE (VoLTE). That goal is being fulfilled this week. In a photo finish worthy of the ongoing Olympics, MetroPCS claims to have launched VoLTE a day ahead of the target two South Korean carriers: SK Telecom and LG Uplus. Other reports say the South Korean carriers crossed the finish line first.
We’ll leave the decision between gold, silver and bronze to the judges. What’s most important is that a powerful new technology is here. The value proposition of VoLTE is the same as VoIP and, indeed, all packetized services: By slicing the data into small bite-size (not quite byte-size, though) chunks with their own address, the need to reserve (or “pin up”) a complete circuit for a session is eliminated and the network gains efficiency because only bandwidth actually being used is required.
PCWorld offers a nice Q&A on the nature of VoLTE. The piece has some technical information, but focuses mostly on the practical ramifications of the changeover, which could be significant. Perhaps the biggest issue, of course, is which companies are moving on the new platform. The answer is pretty straightforward:
In the United States, all the top carriers, including AT&T Mobility, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless, have committed to using VoLTE when it becomes available.
This is, of course, in addition to MetroPCS.
There is another sign that at least one carrier is preparing for VoLTE. A trick that journalists use in order to determine the direction of carriers and vendors simply is to watch the want ads. Light Reading ran a piece on Monday linking to an advertisement T-Mobile posted in search for VoLTE expertise.
In addition to the core benefits of more efficient use of network infrastructure, observers point out that VoLTE will make new services and applications possible or, if they already are, far easier to deploy. For this reason, it is likely that carrier adoption will be rapid.