AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) said it plans to launch HD Voice services using Voice over LTE technology in select markets starting May 23. The company said the Samsung Galaxy S4 mini will be the first phone that can make use of the service, and that it will expand the service to additional devices in the future.
Samsung Galaxy S4 mini
AT&T said its VoLTE-powered HD Voice service will launch in select areas in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and it will expand to additional markets later.
Engadget reported earlier this month that AT&T would launch VoLTE on May 23.
The news finally brings to a close the long wait for a Tier 1 U.S. wireless carrier to launch VoLTE-powered HD Voice. AT&T and Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) executives have been discussing plans to launch VoLTE since at least 2010, but both carriers have delayed their VoLTE launches in the intervening years. 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. And AT&T had said in 2010 the carrier hoped to launch VoLTE by the end of 2013, a target the carrier reiterated in 2013. But AT&T missed that launch window by five months.
Although VoLTE technology represents a significant change in the way voice conversations are transmitted over the wireless network--conversations are transmitted via IP technology on LTE rather than via circuit-switched connections--AT&T said only that customers can expect "crystal clear conversations" and made no other mention of any other VoLTE powered services.
AT&T also said that HD Voice customers will be able to simultaneously talk while surfing the Web, though that capability has long been available on AT&T's HSPA and LTE networks.
AT&T's promise of "crystal clear conversations" is notable since Verizon has hinted that its forthcoming launch of VoLTE could power new services. Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said in December that Verizon is testing VoLTE and that the technology would 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." However, McAdam didn't specify when Verizon would offer such advanced services, and AT&T may well introduce new, VoLTE-powered services at a later date.
AT&T made no mention of Asus' PadFone X in its HD Voice announcement. AT&T in January said it would launch the PadFone with VoLTE technology to support HD Voice. However, the carrier still does not yet sell the device. When questioned about the PadFone X and whether AT&T still plans to launch the device at some point in the future, AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel said he "can't speculate on specific devices and when they might be available."
AT&T isn't the only carrier offering HD Voice service, though it is the only Tier 1 carrier to launch HD Voice using VoLTE technology. Sprint (NYSE: S) introduced EVRC-NW HD Voice about two years ago on the HTC Evo 4G LTE smartphone. The carrier expects to offer nationwide HD Voice sometime in the middle of this year. T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS), for its part, turned up W-AMR HD Voice on HSPA in January 2013.
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