Unraveling the promise of VoLTE
As LTE network buildouts accelerate, many operators are now turning their attention to VoLTE. I recently talked with Nicola Palmer, CTO of Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), and she was adamant that the company will deploy VoLTE later this year or early in 2014. Although she didn't provide a lot of details, she said that the company's VoLTE service would incorporate Rich Communications Services, or RCS, and customers would be able to access VoLTE when they travel.
Verizon is not alone in its push for VoLTE. Tier 2 operator MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS) has been the most aggressive advocate for VoLTE. The company said earlier this month that 15 of its major markets are VoLTE-capable.
Analysts say that all operators will eventually move to VoLTE, but many are skeptical about the timing of this migration. Voice service is too important for operators to take lightly, and they can't risk deploying VoLTE until it passes strict quality tests. Plus, operators must also ensure that critical services such as E911 are available with VoLTE service.
The GSMA is getting involved in this process. The trade group recently said that it will create an end-to-end implementation guide to help mobile operators better understand how to deploy VoLTE on their networks. The planned guide will not recommend any particular VoLTE architecture but will detail advantages and disadvantages of various solutions.
Of course, deploying VoLTE is just the first step in the process. Operators must also determine how to market the service. Some believe operators will use VoLTE as a differentiator by bundling it with advanced services such as group chat or video calling. Others, however, believe that operators will not market VoLTE as a new service but instead will use it to reduce their operational costs by eliminating legacy voice infrastructure.