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Voice Over LTE: Many Questions, No Easy Answers
Most in the mobile industry agree that Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology is the way forward for data: It can support impressive data rates and has the potential to revolutionize mobile communications with a host of innovative, high-bandwidth applications. Yet for all the promise inherent in its blazing speeds, LTE still needs a commercially and technically acceptable solution for dealing with the industry's cash-cow voice service. Although declining, voice still accounts for more than 75 percent of wireless services revenue.

Legacy 2G and 3G networks optimized for voice communications span the globe and will continue carrying the bulk of voice traffic as operators move to add LTE technology. How to deliver legacy circuit-switched voice and text messaging services over packet-switched LTE is a contentious issue facing the industry. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standards body envisioned that this functionality and other voice-enhanced multimedia applications would be solved by the use of IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) architecture.

Several interim solutions have emerged, and more could be on the way. So far, not all are standardized by 3GPP. The threat of fragmentation is real. Instead of agreeing to a common way forward to provide voice over a next-generation network an opportunity missed in 3G the industry could find itself engaged in a new war over proprietary solutions.

Opinions vary on the role voice will play in the launch of new LTE networks. Some expect the deployment of voice over the next-generation network to be "conservative," as operators seek to maximize the technology and infrastructure they currently use to provide voice services, instead of moving aggressively toward a new model.

Over the coming months, operators, vendors, and the 3GPP standards body will face some tough decisions. For those operators that believe voice is absolutely essential to have in their LTE service portfolio from the start, interim voice solutions will be necessary to fill the gap created by the slow progress of IMS, which most operators and vendors agree is the "end goal." These solutions do not have to lead to fragmentation, but they could. That is a problem: Fragmentation helps no one neither operators that seek standardized solutions to reduce capex and opex, nor vendors that strive for economies of scale in their manufacturing.

Voice Over LTE: Many Questions, No Easy Answers analyzes the various scenarios envisioned by the mobile communications industry for providing voice over LTE. It examines the different options vendors are proposing and the difficult choices facing mobile operators that view voice as essential to the successful launch of their new next-generation networks. Finally, the report also profiles 11 companies, exploring their voice over LTE strategies.

Sample research data from the report is shown in the excerpts below:
Table of Contents (uni1009_toc.pdf)
For LTE operators wanting to leverage their 2G/3G networks for voice, the 3GPP standards body has adopted circuit-switched fallback (CS Fallback). The system, which does not run over the 4G radio access network, is a dual-radio solution that does not deliver voice over LTE. So far, neither concept has caught fire in the operator community. Numerous operators view voice IMS as too expensive and immature to deploy soon, and see CS Fallback as a step backward in their strategies to move to next-generation mobile technology. Meanwhile, alternatives have emerged. The two most prominent ones are voice over LTE via generic access (VoLGA) and Nokia Siemens's Fast Track. Also lurking in the background are several over-the-top VoIP solutions. Each technology has its benefits and big-name benefactors.
[click on the image above for the full excerpt]
Companies analyzed in this report include: Acme Packet Inc. (Nasdaq: APKT); Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU); Ditech Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: DITC); Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC); Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.; Kineto Wireless Inc.; Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT); Nokia Siemens Networks B.V., a joint venture of Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) and Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE); Starent Networks Corp. (Nasdaq: STAR); T-Mobile USA; and Verizon Wireless.
Total pages: 26
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