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Summary:

As carriers evaluate their Long Term Evolution 4G network deployments, voice has becoming a sticking point. LTE is an all-Internet-Protocol data network that offers speed, capacity and a lower cost per bit, but what is doesn’t offer is the same circuit-switched voice technology of current cellular […]

logoAs carriers evaluate their Long Term Evolution 4G network deployments, voice has becoming a sticking point. LTE is an all-Internet-Protocol data network that offers speed, capacity and a lower cost per bit, but what is doesn’t offer is the same circuit-switched voice technology of current cellular networks.  This is where Kineto Wireless, the company behind UMA technology that bridges the cellular network to a Wi-Fi network, sees its opportunity.

Kineto is pushing its GAN technology to bridge the 2G and 3G cellular networks with LTE networks. The opportunity for Kineto will be selling equipment that resides inside the carrier network and licensing software on LTE handsets that can route the calls over the appropriate network.

As these all-IP LTE networks are deployed, handsets will need compatible technology in order to work on the new networks, which means a delay in figuring out a standard and a strategy around voice could delay handsets. Last week, I attended an industry meeting at which executives from operators and equipment vendors discussed the problem and the lack of leadership on the issue. Yesterday, a group of equipment vendors and carriers formed a standards-setting group for delivering voice over LTE networks called the VoLGA Forum.

Today, most voice traffic goes over a circuit switched network — be it over cell phones or landlines. With LTE’s all IP-network, that voice traffic would need to be VoIP, but that’s not something carriers are too excited about. Most of them are concerned about costs and the user experience.

An untested VoIP offering on the LTE network may not deliver great call quality — and most cell phone users still want high quality voice calling no matter how great their love of data or a specific device. As for costs, voice is driving less revenue, and the switch to voice on LTE may require buying new IMS equipment — an investment that network operators seem reluctant to make.

At the opposite end of the continuum, operators could yank a user off their 4G network over to their 3G or 2G networks for voice whenever the user received or wanted to make a voice call. That option could lead to delays in switching networks and would also mean that 4G data services wouldn’t be available during a phone call.

Since the standards group behind 3G protocols hasn’t even come up with its own standard yet, and carriers are eager to get their LTE networks deployed, Kineto is jumping into the void with high hopes.

  1. Great piece…How is it diff from today – 2G for circuit voice and 3G for IP data …Yes, you need the 2g snd 3g chipsets ..But once LTE is on and its backward compatible, it will have 2G, 3G and LTE..So you can still do 2G voice….They arent gonna have LTE chipsets w/o 2g or 3G compatibility….are they??

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  2. The article mentions “carrier(s)”. Well, there is only one carrier that’s T-Mobile which is supporting this concoction of protocols. It is a complete nightmare to implement and has no support within 3GPP. Before going in for an IMS VOIP solution, most operators will go in for CS fallback where the mobile phone uses 2G/3G for voice calls and can prefer LTE for data.

    If there are is not much operator support (atleast 3 or 4), this solution will suffer in interoperability cases. For example, a mobile phone that implements Volga will not be able to provide voice support in a roaming scenario.

    There is not much hope for this protocol except filling up a few marketing/standards coffers!

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  3. well said, sk.

    kineto has a decent idea, but imho this is too much. as you said most operators will go for CS fallback. the driver to move to voip/ims has to be services. this is where uma will not help.

    btw – ev-do operators have been running in this mode for quite some time now….

    anon

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  4. CS Fallback… Adding a few seconds delay to existing call establishment is a killer. GSM was launched 20 years ago, and now, 20 years later, one would launch a new 4G network which yield worse user experience. That doesn’t sound very attractive.

    The future with a data network is not IMS vs the view this article advocates. It is true internet voice. Mobile internet inevitably means voice is going to slip away from operators’ control much like data did. Finally, carriers will become, well, carriers.

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  5. @Peter makes a good point. With an all-IP 4G broadband network, how voice traffic travels across the network will likely evolve in unpredictable ways. Isn’t that essentially what’s happened with video? I’m not aware of a carrier that factored direct to consumer over-the-top video competition (from their content partners) in their IPTV business planning and infrastructure investment scenario. It really helps to keep an open mind.

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  6. @Peter makes a good point. With an all-IP 4G broadband network, how voice traffic travels across the network will likely evolve in unpredictable ways. Isn’t that essentially what’s happened with video? I’m not aware of a carrier that factored direct to consumer over-the-top video competition (from their content partners) in their IPTV business planning and infrastructure investment scenario. It really helps to keep an open mind.

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  7. david/peter – agree with you that voice is becoming open. look at skype and google voice. my point is that operators will debate between ims and volga. claim that both allow control, but ims has no services, volga reuses the existing msc, yada yada… meanwhile over the top guys innovate and give new services, while these guys become pipe providers…

    i am hoping operators are looking at google and skype, realize the new features etc. they offer and use their network to offer something new at reasonable price points…. volga certainly will not help them do that….

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  8. [...] Motorola certainly would love for carriers to start on their all-IP equipment buying sprees, but issues around voice quality and spending on new equipment are one of the biggest [...]

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  9. [...] the data network, but it’s still traveling over AT&T pipes. With LTE (when we get there), voice should all be VoIP because it will travel over an IP network rather than a circuit-switched one. But this isn’t [...]

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  10. [...] which are banking on femtocells. The biggest driver for 4G femtocells may have to do with ensuring voice quality over an all-IP network. If that’s the case, then a 4G femtocell would have to be cheap for consumers, but a [...]

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