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Could VoLTE Improve Standard Voice Calling?

  By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

It's hard to imagine how voice calling could improve. After all, it's been much the same concept that it's been since Alexander Graham Bell first spilled some acid on his pants and called for his assistant Watson to come out and give him a hand with the whole thing. But while technology has advanced in the phone and communications arena, there hasn't been a lot done—or even a lot to do, really—with voice calling as a whole. That may be about to change, however, with the growth of a new technology called voice over LTE (VoLTE).

While LTE (News - Alert) is commonly recognized as a way to move data along faster and thus give us access to a greater variety of apps and the like, the idea of using LTE for voice traffic is somewhat less commonly realized. But though it's not so commonly recognized, it is still being used as a means to improve the quality of voice traffic. Interestingly, most smartphones have two radios; one that's used to access LTE for data traffic, and a separate one—that connects to an older network—to transmit voice calls. But what VoLTE does is it removes that second radio from the equation, allowing both voice and data traffic to go over the same network, and that may actually pose improvements for the voice traffic.

When voice traffic can use LTE, some critical improvements become available, and that in turn may by some estimations lead to not only fewer dropped calls overall, but also clearer voice signals going out and coming in, making for a better overall experience. VoLTE won't be coming out all at once, however, with some networks and some models getting earlier access than others, according to reports.

For instance, T-Mobile (News - Alert) customers can get access to VoLTE in 15 different markets, with nationwide access available by the end of 2014. However, it's only available to those users in those markets with a Samsung Galaxy Lite, Samsung Galaxy Note 3, LG G Flex, or Samsung Galaxy S5 device. AT&T (News - Alert) offers it as well, but only to users with a Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini who live in certain portions of Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Verizon doesn't have it at all as yet, but will nationwide by the end of the year if all goes as planned.

While the idea of clearer voice calls with better overall performance is exciting enough as it is, there might be some concerns from the user base who have already discovered how little it takes to slam into a data cap on a mobile device. Using the LTE network more frequently, meanwhile, may have an unfortunate side effect in turning everything into a data network use function. However, if the older networks are used less often, that may mean sufficient resources are freed up to augment the mobile network accordingly and put more capacity into it. This also has some unusual implications for 5G, which still may make an appearance in the next couple years. If LTE is sufficiently augmented to where it's the go-to network for data and voice traffic, will the switch to 5G make the LTE switch a waste?

Only time will tell just what comes of these new developments, but change is an assured constant in the field of mobile connectivity. Whether we're making calls over 3G, LTE, or direct brain transfer, change is certain in the overall field, and will give us plenty to think about in the coming months.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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