Verizon Wireless set for nationwide VoLTE launch later this year

Verizon Wireless set for nationwide VoLTE

Just days after rival AT&T Mobility announced immediate plans to rollout voice over LTE services, Verizon Wireless threw out a reminder that it too was on track to offer VoLTE later this year.

The carrier said its VoLTE plans will include a nationwide rollout of services as opposed to a more regional approach offered up by AT&T Mobility. Verizon Wireless’ nationwide launch plans are helped by its extensive LTE coverage footprint that at this point nearly matches that of its legacy CDMA network that currently handles all of its voice traffic. Verizon Wireless earlier this week announced its “XLTE” marketing efforts tied to the densification of its LTE network with spectrum in the 1.7/2.1 GHz band.

AT&T Mobility last week said it plans to launch VoLTE services in select markets across portions of Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

As part of its VoLTE plans, Verizon Wireless said it will also offer a branded video calling service over the platform that will allow users to make calls directly from their contact lists or to switch from a voice call to a video call. The offering will be similar to Apple’s FaceTime service that is currently limited to iPhone models. Details on the Verizon Wireless video calling plans were sparse beyond simply announcing the plans, so billing and interoperability challenges will remain an internal question for the carrier.

In addition to transmitting voice over its data network, Verizon Wireless said it will use HD Voice to enhance clarity, a technology being offered up by AT&T Mobility for its VoLTE service and one that is already being offered by Sprint and T-Mobile US.

To access the VoLTE service, customers on both ends of the call will need VoLTE-enabled handsets, which Verizon Wireless has yet to officially announce. The carrier did say that some of its current LTE-enabled models will be VoLTE-enabled through a software update. AT&T Mobility touted the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini as its first VoLTE-enabled device.

The move to VoLTE is expected to allow wireless carriers to transmit voice traffic more efficiently and eventually shutter legacy 2G and 3G networks that are currently burdened with carrying all voice traffic and a good portion of data traffic. Analysts noted in an RCR Wireless News report last year that carriers could see carriers achieve up to 40% more spectral efficiency running voice traffic over their LTE networks compared with legacy systems.

Verizon Wireless was one of the first domestic carriers to throw its support behind VoLTE, becoming a founding member in early 2010 of GSMA’s attempt to set a standard for the technology. The carrier quickly followed that move up with claims of a successful VoLTE test call in early 2011. However, further testing appeared to be ripe with challenges as the carrier was forced to push back original 2013 deployment plans. Those challenges seem to have been, or at least nearly, tackled as Verizon Communications CEO Lowell McAdam recently told attendees at an investor conference that he had been carrying around a VoLTE-enabled handset to help with testing.

“We have some handsets – I carry one now – that is in trial mode, and we are getting the kinks out of it,” McAdam said.

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