Sprint's network chief isn't rushing to deploy VoLTE

Sprint (NYSE:S) will rely on its CDMA network and HD Voice technology for voice calling services for the foreseeable future, said Sprint Chief Network Officer John Saw. Saw said Sprint is investing in Voice over LTE technology, but doesn't have a timeline for deploying the service.

"I think there's a lot of talk about VoLTE, but not very many people have rolled it out in a scale that you would need to sustain a good voice service," Saw said. "I think we continue to explore the opportunities of VoLTE, and I need to make sure that I have a big enough footprint with LTE before we can even roll it out. But we have been doing some tests and working with our vendors to explore the capabilities of VoLTE. So we are investing in it, but we really don't have a timeline for rollout."

Sprint plans to cover roughly 250 million people with LTE by the middle of this year. The company's current 3G network reaches over 277 million people--with roaming, Sprint covers a total of 316 million people.

Saw's comments align with Sprint's position in January when it announced it is working with network vendor BroadSoft to enable next-generation IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) technology as well as Voice over LTE. "BroadSoft's platform provides many capabilities for Sprint, including Voice over Wi-Fi, support for femto cells and future VoLTE," Sprint spokesman Kelly Schlageter told FierceWireless in January. "BroadSoft services have been in the Sprint network for a long time, and we are expanding the services they provide in preparation for future network requirements. Sprint is doing a lot of work in testing and development for VoLTE, but we have not provided an official launch date."

Saw also noted that other wireless carriers have stepped back from their VoLTE launch plans. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) had planned to launch VoLTE by the end of last year, but earlier this year the carrier acknowledged it had missed that deadline and has not set a new timeframe for a VoLTE launch. Similarly. Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) in 2010 said the carrier would launch VoLTE by late 2012 or early 2013, but now the carrier expects to launch VoLTE sometime this year.

Saw noted that Sprint's CDMA network will continue to carry its voice calling traffic, and he said the carrier's Network Vision network upgrade program enables the carrier to offer HD Voice. Saw said HD Voice will help set Sprint apart from the competition and will allow the carrier to offer quality voice-calling services.

Indeed, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse told attendees at an Oracle Industry Connect event in Boston this week that the company would launch HD Voice service nationwide in July, according to Light Reading.  The company has deployed the service in a few markets such as Kansas City. Last December Hesse said that roughly 8 million out of Sprint's 30 million postpaid customers had 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 Light Reading article

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