4G Finally Gets a Voice

6:00 PM -- 4G finally has a commercial voice-over-Long Term Evolution (LTE) (VoLTE) application with Tuesday's launch of the new calling service in South Korea.

SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM)'s VoLTE will be quite limited to start with as its only available over the Samsung Corp. Galaxy S3 smartphone. Nonetheless, it will be an important proving ground for the new 4G application as a mass deployment of a technology that had the industry bickering over standards and specifications for a couple of years.

Intriguingly, the operator claims that its 4G voice service is actually better than its 3G offering. SK says the call connection time for the high-definition voice service is less than 0.25 to 2.5 seconds, while 3G voice calls take, on average, five seconds to connect, and the call quality is better.

This opens up an interesting possibility for smaller operators like T-Mobile US Inc. that are currently looking at VoLTE: the option to compete on voice quality on its new network and possibly look at really sharp, crisp calls as a premium service.

That would certainly go against the prevailing winds of the wireless industry right now, with shared plans that push data as the more expensive part of the package and have unlimited voice simply thrown in as an afterthought. Everything, however, on an LTE network is IP data, so it might make sense to offer top-notch voice at a premium to those who want it.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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