Verizon starts testing voice over its LTE network

The VoLTE phone call, hailed as a world first, would free up handsets for multi-tasking

Verizon Wireless said on Thursday it had made the first voice call over a commercial LTE network using the Voice over LTE standard. The standard is one of two competing to become the defacto technology for routing voice calls over the new data networks.

The 33-second call voice call was made on Tuesday between employees at its New Jersey headquarters via a pair of LG Revolution smartphones. On subsequent calls, Verizon Wireless employees were able to chat, use the Web and download material at the same time, the company said in a statement.

Carriers and equipment vendors are evaluating both VoLTE and a competing standard Voice over LTE via Generic Access (VoLGA) as the next advances in high-end mobile phone communication. Current systems can't be used because LTE is an all-IP network.

Once the Voice over LTE (VoLTE) technology is commercialized next year, Verizon Wireless users with LTE-equipped handsets made by firms such as Samsung, HTC or LG Electronics, will be able to talk and run other data applications at the same time, company spokesman Jeffrey Nelson said.

"I would call it a big step, but not a leap," Nelson said. "You want to compress those voice calls so there’s room for other applications. VoLTE will free up bandwidth for video chats on a big scale, like lots of people doing it at once."

Voice quality over VoLTE should also be "high definition" with a "richer tonality," company product VP Marjorie Hsu said in an interview.

The successful call, which Verizon called a world first for a commercial VoLTE network, comes after the company’s launch of LTE (Long-Term Evolution) in 38 U.S. cities in December.

The first LTE services launched in Norway and Sweden in 2009 for data users.

Verizon Wireless, a joint venture between Verizon Communications and Vodafone, plans to enhance VoLTE and work on its commercial 4G LTE network this year, the company statement said. Nokia Siemens Networks is also testing VoLTE.

Company CTO Tony Melone predicts that "VoLTE will quickly become the global standard for delivering voice over LTE networks," the statement said.

But there is no guarantee. Deutsche Telekom has been testing the rival VoLGA standard for voice calls since 2009 using systems from Alcatel-Lucent and Kineto Wireless.

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