For the past decade, the industry has been laser-focused on mobile data and how network operators are going to address users' escalating demands for data. Voice services, for the most part, took a back seat to data during this time. But that's no longer true. Voice over LTE, Wi-Fi calling and HD Voice are now becoming must-have services for operators.
VoLTE is now commercially offered by AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T), Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS). T-Mobile launched VoLTE last May and now has it available nationwide. Verizon also offers VoLTE nationwide and has about six VoLTE devices that support the service. Meanwhile, AT&T Mobility is in the midst of growing its VoLTE footprint to nationwide status.
But VoLTE also enables other voice services such as HD Voice. Some operators such as Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are using that technology's superior voice quality to differentiate their services. Of course, for consumers to benefit from HD Voice, they must also have an HD-Voice compatible device.
Sprint (NYSE:S), meanwhile, launched nationwide HD Voice service last year and by September reported that 16 million customers had access to the service. Sprint, however, has not yet launched VoLTE.
Wi-Fi calling is another service that operators are starting to pay more attention too. T-Mobile, which has offered Wi-Fi calling for some time, made the service a more prominent part of its offering last year by letting customers upgrade to a new Wi-Fi capable smartphone if they didn't already have one. In addition, the carrier offered postpaid customers a free (with a $25 deposit) proprietary "Cellspot" Wi-Fi router for their home to enhance their in-home coverage.
Sprint also offers Wi-Fi calling on Android smartphones, and Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility have both said they plan to offer the service this year. In addition, pay-TV provider Cablevision recently launched a Wi-Fi-only calling service called Freewheel that stands as an alternative to traditional cellular wireless plans.
But voice service enhancements like VoLTE and HD Voice are just the tipping point. As operators look for ways to differentiate their offerings with better quality services without straining their networks, there will likely be even more innovations to come.
We take an in-depth look at all the latest in voice services in this FierceWireless ebook: "VoLTE, Wi-Fi Calling and the Next-generation of Voice Services." To download, click here. --Sue