Smart makes first mobile call using ‘voice over LTE’

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PLDT wireless unit Smart Communications, together with its technology partner Ericsson, recently made the Philippines’ first successful mobile call using Voice over Long-Term Evolution (LTE), or VoLTE.

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“We are excited to be the first network in the country to successfully use VoLTE, because this technology holds so much promise in terms of improving the quality of mobile service available to our customers,” Joachim Horn, chief technology and information advisor at PLDT and Smart, said in a statement over the weekend.

“Voice will always be an important mobile application, and VoLTE is the platform of the future which will provide the best customer experience when it comes to voice communications,” Horn added.

Sean Gowran, head of Ericsson Philippines and Pacific Islands, said that the partnership with Smart in making the first live VoLTE capability available in the Philippines helps reinforce Smart’s technology leadership in mobile communications.

“With the introduction of VoLTE, Smart will ensure and further enhance voice quality, while also enabling a broader range of communication capabilities,” Gowran said.

VoLTE uses LTE, also known as 4G, to transmit voice calls, unlike the current practice where calls go through 2G or 3G mobile networks. A voice call transmitted over LTE is of crystal clear quality and devices with built-in VoLTE capability will natively support it and will not require a separate over-the-top (OTT) application.

It also guarantees direct, global reach similar to the phone services of today, unlike OTTs that require both caller and receiver to be on the same app.

Call set-up time, or the amount of time it takes for one mobile phone to connect to another through a voice call, is also drastically reduced with VoLTE.

Once deployed by Smart in its network, VoLTE will allow users with VoLTE-capable devices to stay on the 4G/LTE network even when making or receiving a call. This means that a user can simultaneously be in a voice call while actively using high-speed data for other applications. At present, LTE devices automatically shift to 3G or 2G when these make a voice call.

VoLTE will also allow Smart subscribers to make video calls without tapping a third-party, OTT app. In the same trials, Smart and Ericsson successfully tested video over LTE, using the built-in calling functionality of a smartphone.

“It will take a little time for VoLTE to be fully deployed, largely because capable handsets are either still too expensive, or manufacturers have yet to activate this feature in their existing advanced models. But the excellent results of these tests provides another reason for us to pursue our aggressive LTE roll-out across the Philippines, since ubiquitous LTE coverage is a clear prerequisite to VoLTE adoption,” added Horn.

Smart is in the middle of a three-year program to provide LTE coverage in 95 percent of the country’s cities and municipalities. This rapid deployment will make Smart’s LTE service available to users in 1,551 cities and municipalities across the country by end-2018.

LTE also provides the platform that will easily allow Smart users to step up to even more advanced technologies like LTE-Advanced (LTE-A).

Smart last year demonstrated the capability of high-speed mobile internet through carrier aggregation in Boracay. Now available in urban areas like Metro Davao, Metro Cebu, and in greater Metro Manila, Smart’s LTE-A delivers peak speeds of over 100 Mbps to users with LTE-A capable devices.

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