4G wireless Voice- over- LTE solutions: All in good time

Peter Jarich, Current Analysis
03 Sep 2009
00:00

With the entire telecom world (myself included) seemingly enamored of 4G wireless Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology, the stage has been set to take a classic analyst position. Call it realism. Call it cynicism. Call it hype backlash. Regardless, the argument goes something like this:

Based on the experience of 3G, LTE is going to be a massive let-down plagued by deployment delays, a lack of compelling devices and disappointing service performance.

Since no technology is mature at inception, it's hard to find fault with the claim. I find it even harder to pull any meaningful insights or market recommendations from the claims. Yet while I'm not a fan of the LTE argument, President Obama's recent so-called "Beer Summit" made me wonder whether or not it presents a "teachable moment." For Voice over LTE, I think it does.

If you haven't been following the Voice over LTE debates (and who could blame you?), the issue is fairly straightforward. Since LTE is a data-only technology, operators will need to pick a strategy (a.k.a. technology) to deliver voice over LTE -- if only because voice will likely drive mobile operator revenues for years to come.

While there's no shortage of strategies, some seem better suited for the long-term (IMS, for example), while others appear more like stop-gap solutions (session fallback to 2G or 3G services) or narrow solutions with only limited operator support (the UMA-based VoLGA initiative). But back to the original argument.

Take the first point of the argument: LTE will be delayed

Does anyone doubt this? Does anyone really expect that we'll be unwrapping LTE-based iPhones or Android handsets come Christmas 2010? I don't. This means that treating Voice over LTE like a woman in labor (something that needs immediate attention) just isn't necessary.

Yes, if LTE has any hope of being the dominant mobile technology in the long term, it will need a standard voice strategy. The long term for LTE, however, is many, many years away, which explains why few operators have made LTE voice services a priority and why solutions such as vendor-specific SIP implementations or 2G/3G fallback (aka CS Fallback) should suffice, especially given new vocoder speech analysis/synthesis systems efficiencies and 2G/3G voice innovations.

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