AT&T admits to VoLTE delay, won't offer new launch date

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BARCELONA, Spain--AT&T Mobility's (NYSE:T) Kris Rinne acknowledged the carrier has delayed its planned launch of Voice over LTE technology. The carrier had previously said it would launch the service by the end of 2013, but Rinne confirmed to FierceWireless that AT&T is still working on its VoLTE implementation.

"We're in the final stages of optimization," said Rinne, senior vice president of network technologies in AT&T Labs. "It's not quite ready."

Rinne in 2010 said AT&T hoped to launch VoLTE by the end of 2013, a target the carrier reiterated last year. Rinne said that AT&T continues to work on the technology to ensure that its VoLTE launch goes smoothly. However, she declined to provide a new timeframe for AT&T's planned launch.

VoLTE promises to move wireless voice calls from legacy, circuit-switched networks and onto IP-based LTE networks. The result, proponents argue, will be clearer calls that connect more quickly and use less bandwidth. However, successful VoLTE calls require VoLTE technology in the network as well as capable handsets.

To that end, AT&T is working to seed the market with VoLTE-capable devices; the carrier said its forthcoming PadFone X from Asus will support VoLTE calls. Mark Collins, senior vice president of data and voice products at AT&T, told FierceWireless in January that, by the second half of this year, the majority of AT&T's devices will be VoLTE-ready.

AT&T isn't the only carrier that has run into troubles with VoLTE. Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) in 2010 said the carrier would launch VoLTE by late 2012 or early 2013, but now the carrier expects to launch VoLTE sometime this year. Verizon CFO Fran Shammo said in August of last year that Verizon would commercially launch VoLTE in the first half of 2014. Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said in December that Verizon is testing VoLTE in the market now and that starting in 2014 it will enable "a whole suite of high-end communication services" such as HD Voice and video conferencing, and  that "FaceTime-like applications will be much easier from the device than they are today."

Regional prepaid carrier MetroPCS became the first wireless operator in the United States to launch VoLTE commercially, in 2012. T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) completed its acquisition of MetroPCS last year.

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