One Voice Means Your LTE Calls Will One Day Be VoIP

[qi:083] A large group of carriers and equipment makers yesterday came out in support of a standard called One Voice to provide voice over the next-generation Long Term Evolution mobile networks. For those adopting the standard, LTE mobile calls would become VoIP calls. The standard is necessary to ensure you can call people on 3G networks from a 4G network and across different providers, and reduces the complexity of making that happen. 4G networks are all IP-based, while voice calls are still routed over circuit-switched networks, which could cause communication problems. Figuring out how to deliver circuit-switched calls on a packet network was going to result in compromises and costs I detailed back in April.

So enter AT&T, Orange, Telefonica, TeliaSonera, Verizon, Vodafone, Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks, Nokia, Samsung Electronics, and Sony Ericsson, which are all stepping behind the One Voice effort that will use a standard version of the IMS framework to route voice calls between the IP and circuit-switched networks. It’s easy to understand why the equipment makers are behind this — they’ve been trying to sell IMS gear for years, and because most of the carriers involved have their own IP-based wireless network they’ve already got their own IMS equipment.

However, a few notable players are missing from the One Voice effort, such as T-Mobile and some of the Chinese carriers. There is also still the question of when these standards will actually be implemented and, thus, able to be deployed in the network. Verizon plans to have its LTE network covering 100 million people by the end of next year, and AT&T will start trials at that time as well. Given that yesterday’s announcement was the beginning of a process that could take a year or longer to cement, we’re still going to need an interim solution if carriers want to provide voice on LTE networks.

This standard shows that voice over LTE is finally a big issue for carriers, said Steven Shaw, VP of marketing for Kineto, which is part of a competing LTE voice effort called VoLGA. He denied that One Voice obviates the need for VoLGA given how long it will take for a standard to be ratified and implemented. Carriers can use VoLGA in the meantime, he notes, which would generate revenue for Kineto. Regardless, getting big industry players to get a standards effort rolling is a key step for those who want 4G handsets — even if they won’t be out in 2011.