Rogers Communications has joined the small but rapidly growing fraternity of operators providing commercial VoLTE services, becoming the first player in Canada to launch the technology.
The service is now available on the LG G3 Vigor handset but Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI) expects to add more VoLTE devices to its product portfolio later in the year.
VoLTE, which allows operators to run voice calls over the 4G network, may give its supporters several advantages over carriers still relying on circuit-switched fallback (CSFB): That approach brings the 2G or 3G network into play when a customer with a 4G device makes or receives a call.
Like other companies that have launched VoLTE, Rogers claimed the technology would improve call quality through the HD voice functionality and reduce the time it takes to set up a call.
It will also allows customers to conduct a voice call while using other services, such as web browsing or video streaming, according to the operator.
Rogers said the introduction of VoLTE would provide a foundation for the launch of more sophisticated services such as voice and video calls and video sharing. Subscribers will, for instance, be able to make HD video calls to other Rogers customers, provided they have compatible devices.
Cost savings may be another attraction of VoLTE, albeit a less significant one. Speaking to Light Reading about its plans for a multinational launch of VoLTE services at this year's Mobile World Congress, Scandinavian operator Telia Company noted the spectral efficiency of VoLTE over CSFB. (See TeliaSonera Preps Multi-Country VoLTE .)
Rogers' launch of VoLTE may give it bragging rights over Telus Corp. (NYSE: TU; Toronto: T) and BCE Inc. (Bell Canada) (NYSE/Toronto: BCE), the two other members of Canada's "big three," which have yet to begin offering commercial VoLTE services of their own.
Both operators have recently been relatively quiet about their VoLTE plans, although Telus is rolling out the technology, according to a January update from the Global Mobile Suppliers Association, which tracks 4G activities globally.
In December 2013, the operator was reported by Light Reading to have deployed IP Multimedia Subsystem technology from Ericsson as a precursor to its rollout of both VoLTE and rich communication services (RCS). (See Telus Preps for VoLTE, RCS.)
According to the GSA, the only other Canadian operator currently deploying VoLTE is SaskTel , which provides services in the province of Saskatchewan.
The Canadian situation contrasts sharply with that in the US, where AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile US Inc. were all among the 14 operators worldwide providing VoLTE services in January, according to the GSA's data.
Outside North America, most of the VoLTE activity has been in the Far East, with Denmark's TDC A/S (Copenhagen: TDC) the only European operator that appears to have launched services.
Table 1: Operators Offering VoLTE as of January 2015
|Hong Kong||3 HK|
|South Korea||LG U+|
|South Korea||SK Telecom|
|Source: Global Mobile Suppliers Association|
Since the GSA provided its last update, however, a handful of European companies have confirmed plans to begin offering VoLTE to their customers during the next few months.
In the UK, Three UK , EE and Vodafone UK are all planning VoLTE launches later this year, while Vodafone's German subsidiary recently claimed to have switched on commercial services. (See 3 UK to Launch VoLTE by September and Vodafone Claims to Beat German Rivals to VoLTE.)
Rival Telekom Deutschland GmbH expects to begin selling VoLTE handsets in Germany by the end of June and Telefónica has told Light Reading it will be "very disappointed" if its German division does not commercialize VoLTE this year. (See Telefónica Aims High With Low-Band 4G Focus.)
Rogers' VoLTE announcement comes several weeks after Canada's government raised $1.7 billion from the sale of spectrum that should support the rollout of high-speed mobile services.
Rogers failed to pick up any airwaves during that sale but was reported to have played down its need for additional frequencies, having spent heavily to acquire 700MHz licenses during an auction held last year. (See Canada Raises $1.7B in AWS-3 Auction.)
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading