The down and dirty work of actually making all othe promised applications and functions of a modern telecommunications system come to life is well under way.
This week, Converged Network Digest reports, a number of vendors and network service providers -- including AT&T, Orange, Verizon, TeliaSonera, Alcatel-Lucent, Nokia and Samsung created the One Voice standards initiative. The goal is to ensure that voice calls and SMSes sent over 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) wireless can flow through the networks and gear on them without trouble. The story says the standard is based the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) specifications and the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS).
It is possible for a broadband network to present some level of IP-based voice and SMS service simply because they are packetized applications that can be decoded and presented in the same manner as any other set of packets. Practically speaking, however, calls or messages that start on one network and terminate on another must be governed by a set of common ground rules to guarantee that quality is decent and features reliable.
Thus, standards are needed. In July, Engadget sounded an alarm -- and dramatically, calling how this will be done a "shockingly open question" that should have 4G lovers "freaking out." The story says T-Mobile is using a system called Voice Over LTE via Generic Access (VoLGA). It's unclear how VoLGA relates to One Voice (or, for that matter, what this all has to do with a river in Russia).
What is certain, however, is that there are many potential answers to the challenge of voice over LTE. That's a good thing. But technical history shows that too many solutions can be as dangerous a landscape as too few. This commentary, which hypes an Unstrung Insider report on efforts to push voice over LTE, discusses the IMS and the 3GPP partnership, two of the big elements of the One Voice initiative. The report warns, however, of the great danger of fragmentation. A very basic question on the table is whether voice optimization should be a centerpiece of LTE. Report author John Blau concludes:
Beginning in 2010, consumers and businesspeople will begin to experience new LTE data services, and they are sure to like it. How many bells and whistles they can expect from the voice service remains to be seen.
Expect to hear many announcements about LTE during the next year. Voice will continue to be the most popular application for electronic networks simply because people don't shut up. That's a good thing. But the task will be to graft it onto 4G networks-WiMax as well as LTE-in a sensible and efficient way.