Is VoLTE the Next Big 4G Play?

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In case there weren’t enough acronyms out there, VoLTE (voice over LTE) is now coming up in a lot of conversations as the next big thing. While it’s inevitable that carriers will go that route, VoLTE has some hurdles to get through first.

To set the stage and help you better understand what’s involved, here’s a primer on mobile network communications paths. First there’s the overhead or control channel, which is essentially the network talking to the phone and telling it what to do, how to operate, and what frequency and/or power is required. To use a simple example, if you haven’t paid your bill, your phone “knows” it shouldn’t work.

Then there’s the voice channel, which speaks for itself. At one point only voice and control channels mattered.

When more and more users wanted to check email and surf the web on their mobile phones, the data channel was created. Right now, carriers combine voice and data channels to deliver the complete mobile experience (3G uses a combination of UMTS for voice and HSPA or high speed data access for data).

But here’s the interesting part about LTE (or 4G if you will). It doesn’t have a voice component; it’s a pure data play. So carriers rolling out LTE have to layer it on to their UMTS channel to add data.

Enter VoLTE. It promises to do the same thing for mobile that VoIP has done – that is, allow voice to be transmitted over data. The logistics of how it will all work however are just getting sorted out.

While few have applied it thus far, we anticipate the floodgates will open. That’s because LTE is very, very efficient at using and sharing available spectrum; and anything a carrier can do to open up channels on its network spectrum is a bonus. In other words if you can use VoLTE, you can dispense with having other channels such as UMTS chewing up the network spectrum. Instead you can have a single network technology doing it all.

The last piece of the puzzle will be handsets that support VoLTE. After all, something has to turn that data back to voice at the end of the transmission. Let’s just say specifications and standards are being worked out, so we all know how many voices will need to come to an agreement.

Maybe that’s why LTE is called long term evolution. But rest assured, VoLTE will get there in the end. We anticipate that VoLTE will begin to achieve some critical mass in the US in 2015.

Are you on board with VoLTE yet? Do you have a VoLTE capable phone?

By the Cel-Fi Team

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