Apple iPhone 6, 6 Plus add to the momentum behind VoWiFi, VoLTE

Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) decision to support Wi-Fi calling as well as voice over LTE (VoLTE) in the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus represents a bellwether for the wireless industry given the iPhone's high profile worldwide, say industry executives.

The iPhone 6 has a 4.7-inch display and the 6 Plus has a 5.5-inch screen. The new phones will start shipping on Sept. 19 in the United States and eight other countries. They will use the iOS 8 operating system, which Apple unveiled in June.

Ian Maclean Mavenir


"With Apple's recent announcements that VoLTE and VoWi-Fi will be supported on the iPhone 6 and in iOS 8, momentum for IMS deployments is building and it's now clear that operators have a tremendous opportunity to create a differentiated user experience for their subscribers, said Ian Maclean, vice president of strategy and marketing at Mavenir.

"Mavenir is seeing that operators are looking beyond the initial VoLTE launches at what comes next, which will include the introduction of video, chat and other rich new services across a multi-device ecosystem of smartphones, tablets and PCs. Operator service models will begin to leverage the IP capabilities of the cloud to enable any service to work on any device from any access network, which is an experience that until now has only been possible using OTT services," he added.

Devicescape CMO David Nowick told FierceWirelessTech that "there's an explosion of interest" in voice over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi) across markets worldwide and that will be further boosted by the iPhone's support for it.

"Anytime the iPhone makes an advancement like they've just made [this week], I think that's good for the industry because the iPhone is obviously the high-end device that tends to be the trendsetter," he said, noting that when Apple is seen as endorsing a certain technology by including it in the iPhone "that tends to spill over everywhere else."

Lars Johnsson, vice president of product marketing at Cavendish Kinetics, said the success of VoLTE will be determined by how well smartphones handle the service. He noted that many of the flagship LTE smartphones launched this year, such as Samsung's Galaxy S5, HTC's One M8 and now the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, were the results of deliberate design choices that reconcile the market trends--which demand certain spectrum bands, device thinness and type of casing--with RF and antenna design requirements calling for larger devices with unobstructed antennas.  

"It ultimately comes down to the antennas and how well they are tuned to determine how well these smartphones end up performing on the many different LTE networks," Johnsson said. He added antenna tuning "is key in determining the success or failure of early VoLTE services."

The new iPhones will also operate on more than 200 mobile networks and support 20 different LTE bands, which Apple said is more than any other smartphone.

According to Paul Lambert, senior analyst of operator strategy at Ovum, the new phones as well as Apple's newly announced Apple Watch "offer operators a great opportunity to increase data usage and data revenues." In addition, he said the devices' support for more LTE bands as well as VoLTE are both "welcome additions for 4G operators and will boost global 4G uptake."

Apple is also including in the new smartphones a Category 4 LTE modem capable of supporting theoretical peak downlink speed of up 150 Mbps. However, that disappointed some Apple watchers who had been hoping for a Category 6 LTE modem that could support twice the speed, meaning 300 Mbps. Apple said the modem it is using also supports LTE-Advanced carrier aggregation.

With so much excitement revolving around news that the new Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus smartphones will support voice over LTE, less attention was paid to the fact that the new devices also support 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which offers three times faster Wi-Fi than the 802.11n standard supported by older iPhones.

Also, another new feature of iOS 8 OS is that it lets Apple devices identify themselves with a random, software-supplied address instead of a pre-set MAC address, basically allowing iOS 8 devices to hide their true identities.

"This change in Apple's policy is good for the user since it improves their privacy. Most users are actually not aware that they are being 'tracked' while, for example, in a mall or airport that offers free/public or paid Wi-Fi access," said Roman Foeckl, CEO of Onyx Beacon, manufacturer of beacons and also provides customers with a CMS platform to manage the technology and data.

According to Onyx, this new capability will push retailers, airports and other venues that rely on tracking capabilities for retail analytics to adapt Bluetooth-based iBeacon technologies.

For more:
- see this FierceWireless article, this article and this article

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