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AT&T, Samsung Rumored to Begin Testing VoLTE Service

  By Blaise McNamee, Web Editor

Perhaps looking to strike back at competitors in the ever heated mobile service provider space, AT&T (News - Alert) has reportedly partnered with Samsung to test its voice over LTE (VoLTE) service.  According to Korean media outlet Yonhap News, the U.S. mobile carrier is using Samsung Galaxy smartphones to test the viability of transmitting voice data over its 4G LTE data network.

Yonhap’s sources went unnamed, but assuming the story’s veracity, this could be a sign that the telecom giant is indeed prepping for an eventual large scale VoLTE deployment in the U.S this year.  Samsung makes for a good partner as well, as the new Galaxy S3 handsets come equipped with VoLTE functionality, which are first being rolled out in Korea where VoLTE has already begun to take off.  The iPhone, meanwhile, does not have this capability.  

Indeed, Samsung has standing relationships with Korean mobile carriers SK Telecom (News - Alert) and LG Uplus supporting their already fully commercialized VoLTE deployments in the country.  This rumored partnership with AT&T could thus serve as a boost to the company’s presence in the U.S., where it is battling fiercely with Apple (News - Alert) for market share.  

Meanwhile, AT&T unveiled its first exclusive VoLTE-capable smartphone, the Asus Padfone X, at CES last week, although an official launch date has yet to be announced.   This lends further support to the notion that the carrier is serious about a commercial VoLTE rollout this year, which it has been toying with since 2011.  Such a move would serve to improve its relative standing amongst other carriers, as well as to potentially reclaim some subscription revenue lost to over-the-top (OTT) services like Skype (News - Alert) and Facetime.  Verizon, for example, has been similarly flirting with the idea of VoLTE over the past few years, but a tangible plan has still yet to emerge.  This partnership with Samsung could thus give AT&T a leg up in this regard.

Will it be enough, however, for AT&T to differentiate itself from the likes of an increasingly bold T-Mobile, who most recently announced that it will pay its competitors’ early termination fees in a move to poach subscribers?  AT&T could very well feel compelled at this point, given these types of disruptive moves.  Either way, it looks to serve the company well to be a pioneer, as research suggests that nearly all operators will deploy some sort of VoLTE service by 2015.

“The biggest change coming over the next few years will be the rise of voice over LTE (VoLTE) and its impact on IMS. Over 90 percent of the operators participating in our IMS strategies survey plan to deploy VoLTE by 2015, up from zero today. This is going to shape the IMS market in the coming years,” said Diane Myers, principal analyst for VoIP, UC and IMS at Infonetics (News - Alert) Research.

If AT&T stays on track this time, we could finally see a U.S deployment of VoLTE later this year.

Edited by Ryan Sartor

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