Verizon committed to VoLTE with HD Voice in 2014

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) Wireless confirmed that it expects to introduce VoLTE this year and will simultaneously roll out mobile high-definition (HD) voice using the W-AMR speech compression algorithm.

Verizon Communications CFO Fran Shammo said at an investment conference in August 2013 that the company would introduce VoLTE in the first half of 2014. However, in an April 28, 2014, research note, Joseph Mastrogiovanni, research analyst at Credit Suisse, said Verizon expects to launch VoLTE in the second half of this year.

"We expect the company to manage the launch carefully and make customers fully aware of the tech difference, but believe VoLTE could hurt the perception of the network at a sensitive time for competition, as it is not likely to be as robust as CDMA voice," Mastrogiovanni wrote.

Verizon spokeswoman Debi Lewis told FierceWirelessTech that the official corporate stance is that VoLTE will roll out sometime in 2014. She declined to confirm or deny the second-half timing cited by Credit Suisse. But she acknowledged that Verizon is focused on making sure VoLTE technology is fully ready before commercially activating it.

"This is complicated technology. We like to test, make sure everything's good before we do any kind of rollout. And 2014 is what we're focused on," Lewis said.

She noted that the flavor of HD Voice Verizon intends to introduce alongside VoLTE service will be based upon the Adaptive Multi Rate Wideband (W-AMR) speech compression algorithm. W-AMR was standardized in 3GPP Release 5, and the first service launch using the technology occurred in 2009.

W-AMR will be more widely deployed than another flavor of HD Voice, which was designed for CDMA2000 network operators that deploy, at a minimum, Service Option 73 Enhanced Variable Rate Codec-Narrowband/Wideband (EVRC-NW), which was standardized by 3GPP2 in 2010.

Sprint (NYSE: S) introduced EVRC-NW HD Voice about two years ago on the HTC Evo 4G LTE smartphone. Earlier this week at its Spotify event in New York, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse announced that HD Voice is now available over its CDMA network in 100 Sprint markets and will expand nationwide in mid-summer. The operator intends to have some 20 million HD Voice-capable devices in use by its customer base by the end of 2014.

T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) turned up W-AMR HD Voice on HSPA in January 2013. AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) is expected to roll out HD Voice alongside VoLTE, but has delayed its VoLTE rollout from an end-2013 target date. AT&T has not provided a new VoLTE target date, but it is working to seed the market with VoLTE-capable devices, such as the PadFone X from Asus.

In a recent conference call to discuss Verizon's first-quarter 2014 earnings with investment analysts, Shammo noted that some 73 percent of the wireless unit's total data traffic is being carried over its LTE network.

"Our focus is on deploying capital to add density to our network and deliver new services such as VoLTE and multicasting to enrich our customers' wireless experience," he noted, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of the call.

Verizon in 2010 said the carrier would launch VoLTE by late 2012 or early 2013, but subsequently delayed that launch.

For more:
- see this Seeking Alpha transcript
- see this LightReading article

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