AT&T’s plan to move voice calls from traditional cellular infrastructure to data networks begins on May 23: The company will launch a Voice over LTE (VoLTE) service with high-quality HD Voice calling in limited markets. The carrier announced the initiative on Thursday, saying customers would need a specific phone for the early stages of this roll-out.
That means unless you have a Samsung Galaxy S4 mini, you won’t get to try the voice over IP service and hear “crystal clear” voice calls. And even if you do have that handset, AT&T is only making VoLTE available in select mid-western U.S. areas to start: Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin are the first states to get it with more to follow on a market-by-market basis.
While crisp voice calls over data networks is exciting by itself, my colleague Kevin Fitchard is looking beyond this first step. More innovation and integration between voice and other data services will improve experiences: Think of video calls, rich SMS chat and more data-centric services that can be tied to a phone number once voice is truly another form of data. And, he recently noted, such services paired with VoLTE will have widespread appeal for businesses who will want these add-ons.