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VoLTE Gains Traction in the US: Who's Ahead in the Race?

T S VZ TMUS

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A recent report by the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) claims that global Voice over LTE (VoLTE) adoption has increased to 40 telecom operators. But how is VoLTE faring on the domestic front? Let’s have a look.

It was T-Mobile US Inc. (TMUS - Free Report) that first introduced VoLTE service in the U.S. in 2014, soon followed by Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ - Free Report) and AT&T Inc. (T - Free Report) . Not one to fall behind in the global race, the U.S. VoLTE market is also expanding rapidly and continues to be an industry trendsetter. In April 2015, Verizon recorded 3 billion minutes of VoLTE calls supported on 15 devices.

Moreover, T-Mobile recently reported that roughly one-third of its voice calls avail VoLTE. AT&T, on its part, has extended its VoLTE coverage to 30 U.S. states. U.S Cellular Corporation too has joined the race for deploying this technology and has plans for trials in the coming days. All the carriers ultimately plan to shift voice call operations to VoLTE sometime in the future.

On the other hand, Sprint Corp. (S - Free Report) has not revealed plans of deploying the technology any time soon. The carrier has its focus on Voice over WiFi (Vo-WiFi) instead.

What is Voice over LTE?

Voice over LTE allows making a phone call over LTE wireless connection instead of the commonly used voice network. Normally, LTE networks were used for data services while voice calls utilized the 2G/3G networks. This would make simultaneous usage of data and calls difficult.

Now with VoLTE, voice calls and data transmission take place through the same LTE band present in mobile devices, resulting in seamless data usage and reduction in call drop rates. Moreover, the larger bandwidth provided by LTE allows subscribers to connect faster and make higher quality voice calls through VoLTE.

The Caveats

One of the key problems associated with VoLTE is accurately gauging the usage of LTE data. This is because LTE data packages are costly and most subscribers operate on tight data caps. Naturally, subscribers do not want their data usage to be limited by higher quality voice calls. However, almost all carriers now have specialized data monitoring tools for their customers that accurately measure their data usage with respect to their VoLTE calls. This ensures that the calls are not counted in the data caps of the customers.

Another hurdle in this technology is that it only works between two phones that are on the same carrier’s network. This deeply damages the VoLTE experience and the calling experience in general. However, with the accelerating adoption of the technology, inter-carrier VoLTE calling is not far away.

To Conclude

Although VoLTE is still at a nascent stage and has its own inherent set of limitations, the adoption rate of VoLTE is rapidly increasing, such that it is not far away from emerging as the industry standard. With competition in the saturated U.S telecom market heating up, the telecom operators will now look to attract customers through the VoLTE service. However, we are also curious about Sprint’s plans to combat the VoLTE thing with Vo-WiFi and offer a challenge to its peers. 

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