Updated: Verizon to offer VoLTE to prepaid users this fall

cell phone ear buds

Verizon appeared to begin to roll out VoLTE to its prepaid customers this week, as FierceWireless reported yesterday. But the carrier said it isn't rolling out the offering commercially until this fall.

“HD Voice,” as Verizon brands its VoLTE offering, provides clearer audio and enables customers to use data while on a voice call as well as making one- or two-way video calls and conference calls. The service can also be accessed over Wi-Fi calling.

Verizon made VoLTE available to some of its prepaid users this week, as evidenced by discussion threads on Reddit and Howard Forums. But a Verizon web page outlining the service that appeared earlier this week was suddenly no longer available this morning.

Other information on Verizon’s website continues to tout HD Voice for prepaid users, however. “You can use HD Voice on your prepaid device if its’ compatible with HD Voice and if the HD Voice feature is turned on,” according to this Verizon page on prepaid plans and service FAQs.

Verizon representatives initially didn’t answer repeated questions from FierceWireless about the availability of VoLTE for its prepaid customers. But the carrier eventually said that a web page was posted in error, and that the service was still "in network testing" and is expected to launch in early fall.

VoLTE offers as much as three times more voice and data capacity than 3G technologies, enabling higher quality connections. The technology also allows carriers to increase bandwidth.

T-Mobile has been the most ambitious U.S. carrier with VoLTE, routing 57 percent of all its voice minutes through the technology, company executives said recently. Verizon and AT&T are also in various stages of VoLTE rollouts, while Sprint has opted to focus on technologies and strategies such as carrier aggregation and beamforming.

Verizon has largely shied away from the prepaid market in recent years in an effort to avoid cannibalizing its lucrative postpaid customer base. The carrier lost 177,000 net prepaid users during the first quarter of 2016, which was actually a slight improvement from the 188,000 prepaid customers it lost during the same period a year prior.

But Verizon appears to be refocusing on prepaid as competition in that space heats up and growth in the overall smartphone market in the U.S. slows. Last month the operator began to throttle network speeds for prepaid users who reach their monthly data caps rather than simply cutting them off, and in May Verizon doubled the amounts of data available on some of its prepaid plans.

Verizon lost only 30,000 net prepaid users during the second quarter, indicating the carrier is making solid progress in stemming its prepaid losses. Offering VoLTE to prepaid users would be the latest indication Verizon is making that market a priority. But just which Verizon users can access VoLTE is still unknown.

Related articles:
Verizon quietly launches VoLTE for prepaid customers
Verizon posts 86K net postpaid phone adds, slows prepaid losses
Verizon, AT&T offering interoperable VoLTE to some customers
Verizon, AT&T miss initial VoLTE interoperability target, promise it will happen this year

Article updated Aug. 26 to include comment from Verizon.