Rumor Mill: AT&T testing VoLTE on Samsung Galaxy smartphones

AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) is testing Voice over LTE (VoLTE) service on smartphones from Samsung Electronics, according to a Yonhap News report. The report, which cited unnamed sources, comes less than 10 days after AT&T revealed that its first VoLTE phone will be from Asus, a relatively small smartphone player.

asus padfone x AT&T

AT&T has said the forthcoming Asus PadFone X will support VoLTE.

AT&T included Samsung's Galaxy smartphones among the test devices for VoLTE service, the report said, though it did not indicate which devices specifically. AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel declined to comment on the report.

In response to a question on the timing of AT&T's VoLTE launch, he said that "we're not offering any more guidance beyond saying we'll start to roll it out this year."

AT&T earlier this month at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show announced that it would be the exclusive U.S. carrier for the PadFone X from Asus, an LTE device that is VoLTE-ready and will support HD Voice as well as carrier aggregation.

In an interview with FierceWirelessTech at CES, Mark Collins, senior vice president of data and voice products at AT&T Mobility, said that by the second half of this year the majority of AT&T's devices will be VoLTE-ready. But he said it will be 2015 before there is mass-market VoLTE adoption.

In a separate interview, Kris Rinne, senior vice president of network technology at AT&T Labs, confirmed that the company is in its final stages of VoLTE testing but declined to say exactly when the carrier will launch the service. "The timeline will boil down to when we have it at the same quality as our circuit-switched," Rinne said.

Last fall AT&T said it hoped to deploy VoLTE in 2013 but also said it was not going to deploy the technology until it was satisfied that it performed as well as its circuit switched network.

Representatives of rival Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) have said that the carrier has VoLTE-capable devices in the market right now but the carrier has not enabled the functionality yet via a software update. Verizon has said it expects to commercially launch VoLTE in the first half of 2014. Carriers are keen to move to VoLTE because it will eventually allow them to refarm legacy voice spectrum for data services.

AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de La Vega also revealed at CES that the company will launch HD Voice service later this year. HD Voice is high-quality voice service, but unlike VoLTE it does not ride on carriers' LTE networks. Instead, it travels over carriers' existing voice networks.

HD Voice uses Adaptive Multi Rate Wideband (W-AMR) technology to improve call quality, but the voice codec must be supported in handset hardware along with two microphones and noise-canceling software. In order for HD Voice calls to go through, both the handsets making and receiving the call and the network infrastructure supporting that call must support HD Voice.

T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) has taken the lead on HD Voice in the U.S. market; the carrier launched HD Voice in 2013 across its entire HSPA network. Its newer LTE phones are also equipped with HD Voice capabilities. 

As part of its Network Vision network modernization, Sprint (NYSE:S) has been rolling out HD Voice capabilities on its 800 MHz spectrum, and Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said last month that roughly 8 million out of Sprint's 30 million postpaid customers have HD Voice-capable handsets, since Sprint has been seeding the market with them. By mid-2014, Hesse said the vast majority of Sprint's network footprint will have HD Voice, and he expects roughly half of postpaid base will have HD Voice-capable phones.

For more:
- see this Yonhap News article

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