Feeds

WTF is... VoLTE

Why voice calls on 4G may be pants (at first)

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Battery sapping

Another, more battery friendly alternative to dual-network communications is simply to provide a separate VoIP app for LTE voice. But that throws the notion of integrated mobile networks out of the window and, for some observers, will only hasten the uptake of third-party VoIP services, such as Skype.

Network operators might not care about that if voice didn't contribute so much to the money they make off each user. There may well come a time when their revenue will come solely from data traffic. At that point, the networks shouldn't care whether voice is handled by their app, Skype's or another - it's all just data, after all. But that's some way off.

VoLTE layout

VoLTE architecture
Source: ZTE

Offering an "over-the-top" VoIP app might bring that point about sooner, but most carriers seem unwilling to risk it. A notable exception is Spain's Telefonica, which has launched TuMe, a VoIP-based text and voice service with Android and iOS apps. But it's not ready to replace VoLTE. It can't be used to call emergency numbers, for example, and it's not finely tuned to the network it's running on in the way that VoLTE can be. VoLTE has quality-of-service built in, unlike OTT VoIP, so the voice call is guranteed a fixed slice of the available bandwidth with data taking the squeeze if bandwidth gets limited.

That leaves CSFB as the least worst pre-VoLTE approach, and it's the one most operators are likely to adopt in the short term. They consider it good enough for most punters. Users won't object overly to the extra time it takes to connect the call, they think. By the time they do, VoLTE will be more widespread and delivering better call quality than the OTT services can.

But the longer they take, the more type Skype and co. have to get better at delivering rock-solid VoIP over 3G and 4G networks they don't control.

The sound you hear is the mobile industry collectively crossing its fingers.

VoLTE is already happening. Some operators may be holding back, but others have leapt in. US carrier MetroPCS rolled out VoLTE commercially in August, and so did Korea Telecom and SK Telecom. But they're the exception. Some observers believe they've deployed too soon, before the technology is mature.

VoLTE compatible: LG Revolution

VoLTE compatible: LG Revolution (right) and friend

Here in the UK, the LTE prime mover, Everything Everywhere, appears not to view VoLTE as a running until 2013. It too is betting on CSFB being good enough, but of course it won't know for sure until people being using its 4G service in earnest.

Vodafone, O2 and Three, meanwhile, can't leap in until they hear the results of the upcoming 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum auction. This means it'll be late 2013 before they're ready to go, and VoLTE should be a more mature technology by then. VoLTE-capable handsets should be more readily available too, like the LG Revolution and the Samsung Galaxy S III LTE - but not, despite its 'HD Voice' capability, the iPhone 5.

EE's apparent willingness to hold off on VoLTE until next year may ensure it loses the advantage of kicking off 4G services early. Then again, its first customers are probably more interested in high-speed data than voice. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Brit telcos warn Scots that voting Yes could lead to HEFTY bills
BT and Co: Independence vote likely to mean 'increased costs'
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
EE buys 58 Phones 4u stores for £2.5m after picking over carcass
Operator says it will safeguard 359 jobs, plans lick of paint
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Google+ GOING, GOING ... ? Newbie Gmailers no longer forced into mandatory ID slurp
Mountain View distances itself from lame 'network thingy'
Vodafone to buy 140 Phones 4u stores from stricken retailer
887 jobs 'preserved' in the process, says administrator PwC
Bonking with Apple has POUNDED mobe operators' wallets
... into submission. Weve squeals, ditches payment plans
Drag queens: Oh, don't be so bitchy, Facebook! Let us use our stage names
Handbags at dawn over free content ad network's ID policy
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.