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 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.