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VoLTE features: What they are, why they matter

Telecom Writer

Voice over LTE (VoLTE) technology is set to play a major role in the future of cellular communications. It enables wireless carriers to use IP-based, 4G LTE data networks for voice calls and should phase out older 3G GSM and CDMA platforms. At first glance, VoLTE may seem like an arcane technical upgrade, but its potential is huge for wireless carriers, service providers and IT professionals. Not only will VoLTE features simplify the infrastructure and management of wireless networks, they'll also free up bandwidth for a new generation of revenue-generating data services.

How VoLTE works

VoLTE features: What they are, why they matterSimilar to Voice over IP (VoIP) technology, VoLTE chops up voice calls into small packets and then routes them over the Internet like any other data unit, such as an email or text message. VoLTE is far more efficient and cost-effective than circuit-switched voice networks because it enables service providers to manage one data network rather than separate ones for voice and data. T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless have already begun offering VoLTE service nationwide and AT&T is introducing it in select markets. Sprint has plans for VoLTE too, but as of May 2015, it hasn't announced a timetable for implementation.

In addition to simplifying network management, VoLTE features could bring about a variety of new services. The best known example today is high-definition voice calling, or HD Voice, which delivers clearer call quality with less background noise. Given the uniformly mediocre quality of cellphone calls, HD Voice will likely receive a warm reception among consumer and corporate wireless customers. Cellular carriers in the U.S. have begun offering this new service, which works with a small but growing number of VoLTE-compatible phones. Verizon's HD Voice service, known as Advanced Calling 1.0, works with newer handsets such as the Apple iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S6.

VoLTE: More than HD Voice

Additional services made possible by VoLTE include video calling and conferencing, better roaming between voice-over-Wi-Fi and VoLTE networks and integration with business-grade unified communication services. These new and enhanced features will likely drive more data traffic across carriers' networks, which in turn will increase customers' data usage and, subsequently, service providers' revenue.

Data usage is rising rapidly across the wireless landscape. This is spurring carriers to seek innovative solutions that will analyze and manage the increasing velocity, volume and variety of information.

Educating customers on VoLTE

Service providers face the difficult challenge of marketing VoLTE while much of its foundation is still being laid. The lack of VoLTE-ready mobile devices and spotty nationwide service are just a few of the issues that must be overcome. Additionally, providers need to sell the technology's enterprise attributes, including greatly improved voice roaming between Wi-Fi and cellular networks. Selling VoLTE-enabled services will require new and innovative tools and strategies. Big data analytics software, for instance, can deliver deeper insights into how mobile customers interact with a provider's platform. By tracking mobile engagement, cellular companies can better target potential customers and send contextually relevant messages, alerts and offers in real time.

Mobile analytics platforms can also provide early-warning systems that detect mobile user problems. How is this a sales tool? Analytics can deliver insights into which customers, specifically enterprise clients, are good candidates for VoLTE-enabled upgrades. This should improve user satisfaction and generate more revenue for providers.

The VoLTE market is advancing rapidly. AT&T and Verizon are enabling VoLTE-to-VoLTE connections that allow their customers to make HD Voice calls between the two networks. This pact also sets the stage for future interoperability of other Rich Communications Services, including video conferencing.

For more than a decade, voice calling has received scant attention in the race to build faster, more powerful wireless networks and mobile devices. That's changing now thanks to VoLTE and HD Voice. The demand is there, too. Think about it: who doesn't want a clearer cellphone call? Of course, VoLTE has the power to deliver a lot more.

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