The spread of VoLTE and VoWiFi phones and services could spur cord-cutting by consumers and businesses. In 2013, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that two out of every five American households had already cut their ties to landlines — and that was before technologies such as VoLTE and VoWiFi were as widely available as they are now.
Voice over LTE and Voice over WiFi do for wireless callers what VoIP did for standard phones. The technology moves voice calls away from circuit-switched networks to IP-based LTE or WiFi networks.
For the last two years, major carriers have been introducing Voice over LTE into their networks. T-Mobile led the pack, followed by AT&T and Verizon. T-Mobile has been so keen on VoLTE that, by the end of 2015, 33 percent of its voice calls were being transmitted through the technology, according to FierceWirelessTech.
No-Hassle Conference Calls
As wireless solutions such as Voice over LTE and Voice over WiFi become more popular, both consumers and businesses may decide that it's time for landlines to go the way of the dodo. New unified communications services will start to appear that will make it seem as if you're talking into a familiar old handset, but behind that handset will be an IP connection.
Employees may see changes in the workplace, too. With IP technology, voice services can be decoupled from a specific device. This means voicemails can be delivered to a worker's computer and phone calls can be delivered to another device, such as a tablet. Better yet, conference call services could be designed that would automatically dial conference participants at an appointed time, which means no more individual dial-in numbers and annoying conference codes.
Another bonus about Voice over LTE is that it's invisible to its users. They dial their calls as usual and talk when the person they're calling picks up the line. Additionally, calls are clearer due to Voice over LTE's HD quality. The technology also opens the door for creative video use.
Making the Switch
At the office, Voice over LTE can be used to create seamless handoffs between a worker's desk phone and mobile. Because the wireless technology transmits voice information in IP packets, those packets can travel smoothly between a VoLTE phone and a broadband internet line, provided there's a picocell network extender to handle the packet trading between the mobile and the broadband net.
Companies looking to embrace Voice over LTE may want to prepare for the technology by adding network prioritization and orchestration products to their IP networks. These additions will help ensure consistent voice quality and reliability and avoid network problems such as starvation, loss latency and jitter.
Working out the Kinks
There are still a few snags with Voice over LTE. It's not available everywhere and there may also be additional restrictions. For example, VoLTE calls may be limited to calls between subscribers of a common carrier. A carrier may also limit the technology to certain phone models. And, even if a phone supports the technology, the maker of the phone could turn it off. In addition, high LTE pricing could slow the technology's adoption rate.
These challenges to Voice over LTE adoption are expected to diminish over time. Future Market Insights recently released a forecast for 2016-2026. In it, the research firm predicts that, with increased competition among telcos to acquire customers in the 4G space and increased adoption of Voice over LTE supported devices, pricing will stabilize, which will change the dynamics of the market and address some of the problems.
New Security Worries
Companies wishing to switch to Voice over LTE should recognize that, as with any digital technology, security can be an issue. In 2015, the CERT Division of the Software Engineering Institute identified some possible avenues of attack.
"Current LTE networks rely on packet switching, rather than the circuit switching of previous generations of the mobile network," the CERT Division explains. "The use of packet switching and the IP protocol (particularly the SIP protocol) may allow for new types of attacks not possible on previous generation networks."
While Voice over LTE and Voice over WiFi will continue to attract users, most callers will remain on circuit-switched networks. Disruptive Analysis founder Dean Bubley offers the following prediction in FierceWireless: "I would say it's probably 25-30 percent of LTE users [globally] who will be active VoLTE subscribers by the end of 2019."