By Jennifer LeClaire / CIO Today. Updated December 11, 2014.
Seven months after AT&T first launched its Voice over LTE service, or VoLTE, in a handful of markets, the wireless carrier is moving full speed ahead and bringing VoLTE and HD Voice to parts of 17 more states and the District of Columbia.
According to AT&T’s internal testing, the VoLTE network performance is strong. The service posts an average of over 99 percent in both accessibility and retainability (how likely consumers are to stay connected), said John Donovan, Senior Vice President of Technology and Operations for the firm.
“While these are just early, internal measurements, we’re encouraged to see the network performing so well,” Donovon said in a blog post. “We are committed to delivering an outstanding customer experience with our VoLTE rollout, and will continue to optimize, test and expand our VoLTE coverage throughout 2015. We also expect to see more VoLTE-capable devices available by year’s end and next year, as well.”
What is HD Voice?
Let’s offer some definitions. VoLTE lets consumers talk and surf the web on their phones at the same time with ultra-fast 4G LTE data speeds. VoLTE also paves the way for higher audio quality for calls through HD Voice. HD Voice produces more natural sounding audio by extending the frequency range of the audio signals, resulting in remarkably clearer calls.
HD Voice is a wideband technology that promises crisp call quality with reduced background noise so a caller feels like he's right next to the person on the other line. Historically, voice calls have been transmitted on a limited frequency of 300 Hz to 3.4 kHz. To provide better call quality, HD Voice expands that range from 50 Hz to 7 kHz -- and even higher -- to bring high definition calling to the handset.
Of course, AT&T is not the only competitor pushing out HD Voice. Verizon also has a product in the works. Verizon will tap into the AMR-wideband standard, which is the industry norm, to back up its HD Voice experience. Meanwhile, Sprint was the first out with its HD Voice, offering consumers a 30-day trial run back in June. AT&T and Verizon, though, have found a way to work together.
“Recently, we announced our plans to work with Verizon to allow our customers to enjoy that clear audio quality and video calling features when placing VoLTE calls to Verizon customers, and vice versa,” Donovon said. “We’re working with other wireless carriers on this same functionality, too.”
We caught up with Jeff Kagan, an independent analyst in Atlanta, to get his thoughts on the update. He told us the network performance looks “terrific.”
“The quality of the actual call is so clear it’s breathtaking. It’s as good as the best landline . . . or maybe even better,” Kagan said. “This is one of the new advances that will improve the quality of all wireless calls. We were thrilled just being able to take our calls with us rather than waiting at home or the office. Quality was the tradeoff. Call quality was better in the online world.”
Of course, this quality disparity has had real world repercussions. On one hand, portability let us take and make calls from anywhere, Kagan noted. On the other hand, if we needed a high quality call, we were quite often disappointed.
“With services like this AT&T VoLTE, I can make flawless, high-quality calls from anywhere over my wireless phone. That’s the great news. There is a need,” Kagan said. “It will take a while to expand this technology from coast to coast, but companies like AT&T are rapidly doing just that.”