Interest in Voice over LTE (VoLTE) technology is on the rise. Wireless operators around the world are deploying VoLTE and are starting to offer a range of multi-media services such as video over mobile. Plenty of smartphones now support VoLTE as well. The advantages for operators are well established: Cost-effective, easy-to-manage networks that are more efficient for delivering voice services than their traditional, circuit-switched network counterparts. But there are plenty of advantages for enterprises, too.
Much like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), VoLTE enables digitized voice packets to be transmitted over an IP network -- in this case, the LTE data network. Typically, LTE networks have been used for data services and voice calls were transmitted over dedicated voice channels. The LTE data network is different than voice-only voice channels in that it can carry IP networks. With VoLTE, voice and data can move over the LTE band present in mobile devices. It's optimized for smartphones and next-generation data services and offers improved bandwidth and speed.
Moving voice packets over the more efficient data channel, as opposed to the circuit-switched cellular voice channels is advantageous for various reasons. With VoLTE, wireless operators will eventually be able to terminate their legacy, circuit-switched voice channels in favor of consolidating voice traffic on the LTE data channels. This significantly lowers voice infrastructure costs. Spectrum that had been allocated for traditional voice service can be put to use for data services. Simply put, operators can squeeze more simultaneous calls over the LTE data bandwidth compared to the voice channels. VoLTE also improves voice quality and the overall customer experience, as voice can be encoded with HD-voice codecs.
However, the real benefit comes when the IP packets can be dumped over a wired IP network as quickly as the IP packets leave the phone. For example, imagine the savings if a pico cell network extender can offload VoLTE packets coming from a nearby LTE cell phone onto a wired broadband Internet line. Essentially, the voice packets will be carried over the wired Internet instead of taking the more protracted route via the airwaves from the caller’s cell phone all the way to the macro cell tower that can be miles away. And there’s no need to share, and therefore congest the same frequency resource that other subscribers may use.
This also is valuable for the enterprise for seamless mobility features. Once a business has voice calls going over VoLTE, calls can technically be handed back and forth from the LTE channel to the macro cell to the LTE channel to the pico cell, all seamlessly and without calls being dropped. This means you can walk in and out of the office (i.e. in and out of small cell coverage) and not drop your call.
VoLTE promises even more when you consider the possibility of adding hand-over capabilities to and from the non-cellular IP phones at the office. With VoLTE, where the voice packets are IP-based from the get go, these type of applications are viable. Imagine being able to push a button to move a call seamlessly from your office phone to your cell phone when you are leaving the office; that’s a business call I would take after 5pm.
Enterprises that want to take advantage of VoLTE may want to consider bolstering their IP networks with intelligent network prioritization and orchestration products to ensure consistent voice quality and reliability. Technology, for example, that aggregates multiple Internet access lines can add redundancy and protect against any negative network conditions such as starvation, loss, latency and jitter, to which VoIP is normally vulnerable.
Expect VoLTE adoption to take off in the next few years. In fact, the number of VoLTE connections is estimated to reach 2 billion by 2020, up from about 123 million in 2015, according to a recent study from Juniper Research. The benefits for carriers are clear, but so are the benefits for enterprises: More efficient and cost-effective voice services, opportunity for richer multi-media services, and better bandwidth and speed.
Dr. Cahit Jay Akin is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Mushroom Networks, a privately held company based in San Diego, CA, providing broadband bonding solutions for a range of Internet applications.