Verizon's Melone: There is no rush for VoLTE
Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) does not have to rush to deploy a Voice over LTE (VoLTE) solution, but will add the capability to its network later this year, according to a senior executive.
Speaking at the Nomura U.S. Media and Telecom Summit Wednesday, Verizon Communications CTO Tony Melone said that Verizon's VoLTE services will be "the largest scale mobile VoIP network out there," and that while "there are some challenges that we need to tackle carefully," VOLTE will bring low latency and quality of service assurance.
"We're optimistic and bullish but we're not rushing it. We will enable it in 2012," he said. "My view is there is no reason to force customers to it." He said for a certain time period Verizon will allow customers to use VoLTE with Rich Communication Suite (RCS) as well as traditional CDMA voice to allow them to get used to the idea of voice being an application. He said that later in 2013 and into 2014, Verizon may begin to offer VoLTE as its only voice offering.
MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS) executives have said the company will launch two to three smartphones with Voice over LTE capabilities in the second half of this year. MetroPCS wants to migrate voice service to VoLTE so it can refarm the spectrum it uses for CDMA service. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) plans to have VoLTE in place by 2013, and Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) has said it will offer VoLTE when it launches its TD-LTE network by the middle of 2013.
Melone also touched on several other technical and business issues. He said that in the coming years as LTE and data roaming expands, he envisions devices being able to support seven, eight and maybe even up to 12 spectrum bands. "You have to be strategic with what bands you're putting in, who your roaming partners are and what spectrum they're deploying," he said.
The Verizon CTO also talked about the carrier's strategy regarding Wi-Fi offloading. Unlike its rival AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), Verizon does not make extensive use of Wi-Fi offloading. Melone said that Verizon thinks Wi-Fi is a good solution for people to use in their homes or at venues like stadiums where capacity may be overwhelmed. However, he said that it is not a practical solution for macro network scenarios, and that Verizon has enough spectrum to avoid using Wi-Fi extensively.
Finally, Melone touched on the idea of spectrum sharing. He said that the best opportunity for spectrum sharing would be between two entities--a government user and a commercial user--that use spectrum in different ways. While there are technical hurdles to overcome, that scenario is feasible, he said. "I think we need to look at everything we can as an industry to find ways to exploit that," he added. "Where it's hard to imagine is between two commercial operators using it the same way. There's always going to be a tradeoff. Someone is going to have to sacrifice performance." Either way, he said commercial spectrum sharing solutions are likely "years away."
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