Report: U.S., South Korea propel VoLTE forward

The United States and South Korea are leading the global movement behind Voice over LTE as voice moves to become one more data application among many, according to a new report from research firm Infonetics Research.

While not that surprising--the United States and South Korea are two of the leading countries behind LTE adoption in general--the report underscores the momentum toward VoLTE as a viable alternative to circuit-switched voice, despite there being no commercial deployments yet in the U.S. market. According to the report, while the first VoLTE deployments will take place in the second half of this year, Infonetics believes there will be 300,000 VoLTE subscribers globally by year's-end. 

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), which has an LTE network covering two-thirds of the U.S. population, does not have to rush to deploy a Voice over LTE (VoLTE) solution, but will add the capability to its network later this year, Verizon Communications CTO Tony Melone has said.

"We're optimistic and bullish but we're not rushing it. We will enable it in 2012," he said at an investor conference in late May. "My view is there is no reason to force customers to it." He said for a certain time period Verizon will allow customers to use VoLTE with Rich Communication Suite (RCS) as well as traditional CDMA voice to allow them to get used to the idea of voice being an application. He said that later in 2013 and into 2014, Verizon may begin to offer VoLTE as its only voice offering.

MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS) executives have said the company will launch two to three smartphones with VoLTE in the second half of this year. MetroPCS wants to migrate voice service to VoLTE so it can refarm the spectrum it uses for CDMA service. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) plans to have VoLTE in place by 2013, and Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) has said it will offer VoLTE when it launches its TD-LTE network by the middle of 2013.

"The U.S. and Asia, especially South Korea, are leading the voice over LTE charge, with Verizon Wireless, MetroPCS, SK Telecom and LG U+ all planning to launch VoLTE services this year," said Stéphane Téral, principal analyst for mobile infrastructure and carrier economics at Infonetics Research, who noted the strong momentum in South Korea. "This is all good news for VoLTE, of course, but to put it in perspective, even with the VoLTE market ramping quickly here on out, by 2016 VoLTE will make up only about 14 percent of global mobile VoIP revenue, while over-the-top mobile VoIP continues to make up the lion's share by far."

According to a separate recent report from research firm ARCchart, revenue from VoLTE services will reach $2 billion by 2016.

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