The greatest benefit of pushing voice over LTE [VoLTE] is the opportunity to increase capacity for faster 4G mobile data services by redeploying spectrum currently used for older 2G and 3G services. For example, we have learned that Voice over LTE or VoLTE is roughly 2-3 times more efficient than 3G voice services and 4-6 times more efficient than 2G voice services. VoLTE is very sensitive to cell hand-off for customers on the go. As such, carriers need to optimize and tighten their grid of cell sites to ensure a high quality voice experience, as a dropped data connection can lead to a dropped call. With data, connections can drop and become quickly reestablished, which is unlikely to be detected by the customer given the likelihood for streaming content to be cached. With voice, however, dropped packets may lead to a dropped call, which has a much greater impact on the customer experience.
Customers should also get a better voice experience over time from the combination of shorter call setup times (1-2 seconds vs. upwards of 6-8 for legacy networks), better simultaneous data and voice capabilities, higher HD quality voice, and the smoother integration of other enhanced messaging features, such as video calling. We have learned that device makers are already including VoLTE capabilities that carriers can enable with a software update. Notable devices with VoLTE integration include the Samsung Galaxy S5, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, and the LG G Flex.
LTE Network Implementation for VoLTE Support
Carriers can migrate to VoLTE largely with software and do not need to visit individual cell sites to enable the service for their customers. Despite the ability to deploy LTE with the push of a button, implementation is not easy from what we understand from carriers.
Traffic on LTE Network – Voice & Data
Some carriers have suggested the use of VoLTE will help to bring network traffic back towards symmetry. We find that the conversion of voice consumption into higher-quality data packets only represents around 8% of total Smartphone data usage and roughly only 10% of downlink usage. Hence, we expect the growth in demand for downloadable content, video, media, and gaming services will continue to be greater than the demand to upload personal content.
However, a ubiquitous VoLTE Global Telecom Network is at least 5 years away. Cost savings from LTE network migration won’t be evident as well given the long phase-out requirements for legacy 2G/3G networks in this space and with the slower migration to LTE handsets.