SK Telecom Introduces Voice over LTE

SK Telecom, with a 50% share of the South Korean mobile market, will launch voice calling over its LTE network today, becoming the first mobile operator in the world to commercially switch on Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) services. When voice is delivered over LTE, there’s no need for a 2nd, legacy Circuit Switch voice network.

SK, Korea’s largest operator with more than 26 million customers, says its VoLTE service will be known as ‘HD Voice’ and will “dramatically” push up audio quality by using high-quality audio codec capable of handling 2.2 times wider frequency bandwidth than that of 3G voice calls. Moreover, SK claimed that the call connection time will be as much as 20 times quicker, at 0.25 to 2.5 seconds compared to the average of 5 seconds required to connect a 3G voice call.

Currently, 4G phones need two networks; a 3G network (for voice) and 4G network (for data). Integrating voice and data on one network makes sense. Voice is just data, after all. Infrastructure could be used more efficiently with a single, integrated network.

In order to take advantage of the service, both parties on the call will need to be subscribed to SK’s LTE service and have HD Voice-capable devices.

The operator will begin selling the LTE-enabled Samsung S3 with HD Voice, while existing users of the device are able to add the feature via a firmware upgrade due soon. It plans to embed the service as a “basic feature” in most of its LTE smartphones from now on.

Meanwhile, MetroPCS Communications today announcing the launch of Voice over LTE (VoLTE) services and a VoLTE-capable handset, the Android-powered LG Connect 4G at select U.S. stores. It will continue to roll out VoLTE services and phones in the coming weeks.

MetroPCS is the fifth largest facilities-based wireless carrier in the United States. MetroPCS had 9.3 million overall mobile subscribers as of the end of Q2, of which over 700,000 were LTE subscriptions. So far, the LTE network rollout covers roughly 90 percent of its CDMA footprint.

MetroPCS (above) is currently using LTE in narrow channels and consequently does not offer the LTE speeds of AT&T or Verizon. It uses LTE to enable more voice channels.

Verizon Wireless also plan to launch VoLTE technology in 2013. Verizon’s LTE 4G network is now live in 337 US markets and on target for 400 by the end of the year. Verizon’s LTE is available to 230 million Americans, or about 75% of the U.S. population. Verizon sold 3.2 million LTE devices in the second quarter of 2012, taking its total LTE subscriber base to 11.5 million.

HD Voice on Sprint is expected before the year’s out. Sprint said it needs to upgrade a “critical mass” of its markets with the necessary network improvements to support HD Voice. Additionally, Sprint wants to get additional devices other than the HTC EVO 4G LTE in the market.

T-Mobile plans to deploy LTE service starting next year on its 1700 MHz AWS spectrum. This summer the carrier began testing LTE Release-10 equipment, dubbed LTE Advanced.

SK Telecom has already achieved 99 percent population coverage for its LTE network (first launched in July 2011), and claims to be the world’s second-largest LTE operator after Verizon Wireless in the US. SK hit 4.22 million LTE subscribers at the end of July 2012 and says it is on track to achieve its target of 7 million LTE subscribers by year-end. About 30 percent of South Koreans are expected to move to LTE within a few months.

The Korea Communications Commission (KCC) regulator auctioned LTE spectrum across three bands, 800MHz, 1.8GHz and 2.1GHz, last August. SK Telecom (51% market share) and KT Corp (31% market share) control just over 80% of the country’s mobile market, while LG Uplus has a 17.8 percent share.

Related Dailywireless articles include; MetroPCS Moves to Voice over LTE, SK Telecom Does Multi-Carrier LTE, South Korea Completes Nationwide LTE Coverage, Qualcomm Demos LTE to WCDMA Call, Voice Over LTE

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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