AT&T is prepared to beat its rivals as the first major U.S. carrier to roll out voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) service.
Like going from standard-definition to HDTV, VoLTE provides voice quality that is much clearer than traditional wireless service. But it requires new handsets, which means those subscribers in AT&T’s VoLTE launch markets of Chicago and Minneapolis might not be able to take full advantage when the service debuts on May 23, Engadget reported. It’s widely expected that as VoLTE becomes the nationwide standard, phone manufacturers will begin to provide compatible models.
Both AT&T and it chief competitor, Verizon, had planned to make VoLTE available for the first time in 2013, but they were delayed by technical problems.
“Rumors that AT&T will launch VoLTE in select markets on May 23 are interesting because, if this becomes reality, the launch marks an important milestone in LTE network utilization," noted Ken Rehbehn, principal analyst at Yankee Group. “Without VoLTE, cumbersome circuit-switched fallback procedures are required that generate signaling load and time delay. In addition, customer voice calling experience should get a substantial boost with the activation of VoLTE on a supported user device. Customer uptake, however, will remain very limited until a wave of VoLTE-capable user devices flow into the market. Because so few user devices support VoLTE, an early launch by AT&T will not create competitive pressure on Verizon Wireless or other operators that lack VoLTE. But we can be sure that once one operator launches, the other big players will scramble to follow."
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