This is a guest post from Paul Beaver, products director, of Anite Telecoms who explains why VoLTE is an important missing link in the LTE success story.
Global LTE deployments are continuing to rise exponentially and the technology continues to gain ground in the marketplace. However, there is one constraining element of LTE that the industry is increasingly keen to resolve – the issue of voice. At present LTE networks are only capable of supporting data and remain unable to process voice calls. This omission is particularly surprising when you consider that traditionally, one of the primary functions of mobile operators is to deliver voice services. This flaw in LTE’s current service portfolio has left operators susceptible to being overtaken in the mobile voice market by OTT providers such as Skype.
However, there is a concerted industry drive to develop a solution which will enable voice calls to be made over LTE networks. Voice over LTE (VoLTE) technology will ultimately enable operators to introduce new business models to reaffirm their position as providers of premium voice services.
VoLTE trials are currently in progress; and chipset vendors, device manufacturers and mobile operators are testing VoLTE in controlled lab-based environments. Technologically speaking, VoLTE is still in its infancy, and this has naturally led to a wide range of interpretations as to how the mechanism should be integrated in both networks and devices. Each individual operator will initially have a unique set of VoLTE requirements, owing to a diverse range of network sizes, handset models, LTE standards and user numbers. These unique requirements mean that there can be no ‘one size fits all’ VoLTE solution for operators. Therefore, testing will need to be calibrated in order to account for the different conditions that could potentially impact on the operator’s ability to roll out and maintain VoLTE.
Mobile subscribers will expect top quality voice services, and a ‘best effort’ Voice over Internet Protocol type service, such as Skype, will not suffice. VoLTE must offer a high quality of service, or risk a perception among consumers that LTE is an unreliable proposition. Levels of network signalling will naturally escalate as a result of VoLTE’s introduction, and this will undoubtedly put networks under an increased strain. Operators will need to account for this, and incorporate this type of scenario into their testing.
Ultimately, VoLTE’s success will be determined by its ability to deliver a top quality voice service across an all-IP infrastructure, on the newest LTE devices. If VoLTE is to emerge as a genuine, and strong, commercial possibility, then the industry will need to co-operate.
The effective introduction of VoLTE is fundamentally dependent upon a rigorous programme of testing from the very outset. This could be a relatively time consuming and expensive process. However, that does not have to be the case, as handset manufacturers, chipset vendors and mobile operators can leverage lab-based testing; which provides a simulated network environment in which to test audio quality and component interoperability. By adopting this process, operators are no longer fundamentally reliant upon live network testing and lengthy, costly device field trials. Meticulous VoLTE testing can be undertaken at a reduced cost, and with far greater ease, to ensure VoLTE works perfectly and keeps operators at the top of the voice delivery market.
The LTE Asia 2012 conference is taking place on the 8-19 September 2012 at the Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. Click here to register your interest.