AT&T will use small cells to strengthen VoLTE coverage

AT&T's (NYSE:T) Project Velocity IP, or VIP, includes the deployment of more than 40,000 small cells and those small cells will be instrumental in delivering a good customer experience, especially when it comes to Voice over LTE,  which the operator plans to launch in some markets by year-end.

Speaking at the Jefferies 2013 Global Technology, Media and Telecom conference in New York Thursday, Bill Smith, president of network operations at AT&T, said that as part of Project VIP, AT&T is deploying both small cells and distributed antenna systems, or DAS.  This year the company is focusing primarily on indoor deployments such as shopping malls and hotels, which will make for a better customer experience, particularly VoLTE.

Smith said that AT&T already is testing VoLTE in a few locations and will launch some initial markets by year-end. He added that AT&T's VoLTE solution will let customers fallback to UMTS when out of LTE coverage, which he believes will make for a better customer experience, particularly in indoor areas where the existing DAS deployments may not offer LTE coverage.

Competitor Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) is currently readying its network for VoLTE and plans to commercially launch VoLTE in early 2014, and is looking at offering HD voice and video calling services as well. 

Smith also said that AT&T is planning to include UTMS, Wi-Fi and LTE into each small cell it deploys, noting that adding Wi-Fi to the small cell makes sense because there are many ways to monetize it. "It doesn't mean that everything Wi-Fi is free. It could be free to the user, but we could monetize it through subsidies," he said. "The business model remains to be worked out."

Interestingly, he also said that on the enterprise front, the size and sophistication of cyber-attacks are growing and AT&T is using various tactics to identify bad traffic and block it. "The bad guys are pretty smart," Smith said. "We are adding a lot of functionality in the network."

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