Qualcomm Technologies VP: Coverage is crucial for VoLTE rollout

HONG KONG--Coverage is now the only barrier to large-scale deployments of voice over LTE (VoLTE), in the view of Qualcomm Technologies' VP of product management.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the company's 3G and LTE Summit here today, Serge Willenegger said he believes there are now no major roadblocks to the transition of voice on to LTE networks from a technical point of view, leaving the reach of commercial networks as the only remaining hurdle to VoLTE.

"The main gating element of that transition is the coverage of the LTE network. Where there's coverage that transition can happen. It's happening in Korea…it's happening in Japan…It may start to happen in the U.S."

Willenegger also defended the 3GPP's original decision not to include voice in LTE, noting that the fast propagation of the technology would have been held back by the inclusion of old-fashioned calling services. Voice "is the most difficult part of any cellular system because the KPI requirement and the expectation from the end-user is so high," he said, adding that it was simpler to run voice "on 2G and 3G."

The lack of a requirement for VoLTE is one of several catalysts in the speedy deployment of LTE networks, Willenegger commented. Other drivers include the sheer number of radio bands available for LTE, which removed the need found in 2G and 3G networks for licences to be issued for every band in every country.

Device development also benefitted from the multiple bands available, as companies including Qualcomm began integrating more bands into the transceiver, which in turn prompted development of new modules that could quickly be deployed throughout the world.

Willenegger said the various catalysts created a "virtuous [cycle] on LTE because more devices leads to more investment and…the carriers see the benefit in terms of network efficiency, so more investment in the network."

LTE networks will quickly "become more mature in terms of coverage and there will start to be…movement," in terms of transitioning voice to LTE, Willenegger predicted.

The VP also outlined Qualcomm's developments in carrier aggregation, explaining the company is now on its "second generation of LTE modem with carrier aggregation enabling Cat-6."

The company has developed modems enabling operators to combine two or three "chunks of spectrum" in various frequencies to "achieve the full 40 MHz capability [of LTE networks] that enables the theoretical peak rate of 300 Mbps," he said.

Thus, carriers with "20 MHz in one band, 10 MHz in another band, and 10 MHz in yet another band...can suddenly aggregate these three chunks of spectrum."

Willenegger said another element in the development of LTE in the coming years will be the "aggregation of FDD and TDD, or paired and unpaired spectrum," which he said also makes "carrier aggregation capability more important."

For more:
- see this Qualcomm carrier aggregation blog

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