World’s first Voice over LTE launches in Korea; US stuck with 3G calls
A South Korean telecom provider is launching what appears to be the world’s first commercially available Voice over LTE (VoLTE) service tomorrow. SK Telecom announced that its high-definition Voice over LTE technology will be embedded in the Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE and “most of” its future LTE smartphones.
4G LTE services are widely available on smartphones in the US and around the world, but the LTE speeds are reserved for data services. Voice calls still fall back to 3G or even 2G networks. “Nowhere in the world is Voice over LTE commercially available today,” Michael Marcus, an ex-FCC official who is now a wireless industry consultant, told Ars in an interview last week.
According to Infonetics Research, “the first VoLTE services [are] launching in late 2012,” with Verizon Wireless and Metro PCS planning a launch for this year while AT&T and Clearwire wait until 2013. Verizon may actually not launch Voice over LTE until 2013 too, though. In an interview with Network World, Verizon Network VP Hans Leutenegger was quoted as saying that Voice over LTE may not be deployed “until well into next year” because Verizon is satisfied with its current voice network.
SK Telecom’s high-definition Voice over LTE will make connections in “less than 0.25 to 2.5 seconds, two to 20 times shorter than 3G voice calls that require an average of five seconds to connect a call,” the mobile operator said. Voice quality is promised to be 40 percent better than over 3G due to using a wider bandwidth (50–7000 Hz instead of 300–2400 Hz). HD voice is also available on 3G—this is its first deployment on LTE.
Mobile operators hope VoLTE’s quality will help steer customers away from over-the-top mobile VoIP services. At the start, upgraded voice quality will only be provided for calls in which both parties are using SK Telecom’s LTE network and LTE-capable devices. “Going forward, high-quality voice call is expected to be realized among VoLTE customers of different carriers through service interworking among three Korean mobile carriers,” SK Telecom said.
Worldwide, Infonetics expects Voice over LTE to gain 300,000 subscribers by year’s end.