LAS VEGAS -- Super Mobility Week -- A dull-sounding, yet crucial network update is at the heart of AT&T's voice-over-LTE launches and its drive to add new services for connected cars and wearables.
AT&T is finally starting to deploy IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) routers in the field, which will open up how the carrier delivers communication services and what it can do with cars and other new devices on its network. Initially, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is launching VoLTE as it deploys the routers and tests that the network in a particular market can reliably fall back to 3G voice if needed, a vendor here at the show tells Light Reading.
Kris Rinne, senior vice president of network and product planning at AT&T, told Light Reading Tuesday that the VoLTE work started primarily in Chicago. AT&T said in May that it is launching VoLTE in selected areas of Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin. (See AT&T's Rinne: Carriers Working on VoLTE Interoperability.)
The capabilities that IMS will enable for cars and wearables, however, are what have caught the attention of Chris Penrose, SVP of emerging devices at AT&T. "Our IMS core is going to enable really, really unique services like twinning."
"Twinning" enables calls and messages to a smartphone to be forwarded to an associated connected car or smart watch. It's not an entirely new concept: Desktop VOIP phone systems have used SIP trunking to link an IP address so that calls to the office can be forwarded to a user's cellphone for a while. IMS extends that concept down from the smartphone to the smart whatever.
"We think the twinning capability is really exciting," Penrose says.
The slow roll to VoLTE, twinning and other services is a timely reminder, however, of the gap between hype and actual real-world services you can use. Equipment vendors started banging on about the IP Multimedia Core Network Subsystem and the wonderful new world of rich communications it would open up years ago.
Light Reading first wrote about VoLTE in February 2010, with the service being described as being just around the corner back then. AT&T is just starting to offer the actual service now. (See MWC 2010: Verizon on Track for LTE in 2010.)
Today's lesson: It takes a long time for a massive carrier to fundamentally change the way it does anything, especially voice calls, on its network.
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading