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VoLTE Is Key Driver of IMS, But Business Case, Device Supply Are Weak

July 14, 2014

New survey results just released by Infonetics Research confirm what Real Time Communications World reported about voice over LTE just last week ­– which is that VoLTE suffers from a weak to non-existent business case and that endpoints supporting the technology are initially quite limited.

Infonetics analyst Diane Myers commented tha,t “although VoLTE is the largest driver for IMS…it’ll be tough to justify spending on a new network just for voice that represents flat to declining revenue….” Myers was the lead on Infonetic’s IMS Service Strategies and Vendor Leadership: Global Service Provider Survey, which spoke with carriers that have deployed IMS core equipment.


In a Q&A with Realtime Communications World earlier this week Dean Bubley, director and founder of a London-based research firm and consultancy Disruptive Analysis, noted: “There is zero new revenue from VoLTE specifically. It may help stem future losses a bit, if it works well enough. In theory, the IMS platform which VoLTE demands may support other new services (either to end users or developers), but that is largely theoretical at this point.”

Nonetheless, it appears that many tier 1 service providers are moving forward with VoLTE. Infonetics reports that 83 percent of carriers surveyed say they will deploy VoLTE by 2016. And in just the past couple of months, several major carriers have rolled out initial markets for and/or unveiled their 2014 VoLTE deployment plans.

AT&T in May launched VoLTE-based High Definition Voice service to Samsung Galaxy S 4 mini users in select areas of Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, adding more markets are to come. Hong Kong Telecom made VoLTE available the same day.

T-Mobile in June announced it had VoLTE live in 15 markets reaching more than 107 million people, and that it supports VoLTE on four devices – the most recently added being the Samsung Galaxy S 5. In a June 18 blog, T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray wrote that the company was the first to roll out VoLTE and that it expects to make VoLTE available nationwide by the end of the year.

Bouygues Telecom in France and Verizon in the U.S. say they also plan to roll out VoLTE and related HD voice services this year. Bouygues Telecom said its LTE network will deliver the first VoLTE calls later this year and will go commercial in 2015. Verizon’s VoLTE is slated to roll out on its nationwide network later this year.

All the recent VoLTE rollouts have some wondering how this technology relates to what’s happening with WebRTC, an important new real-time communications technology.

RealTimeCommunications posed this question to Bubley, who commented: “Potentially, it is possible to extend VoLTE services to non-VoLTE devices/networks via WebRTC to browsers, or potentially to OTT-style mobile apps. Nothing has been commercialized yet, and this brings in various extra complexities. Most operators will probably want to get their main VoLTE rollouts sorted before looking at WebRTC as an enhancement.”

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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