Clearing up what VoLTE means for the future of phone calls
The answer to those questions concerns the future of voice calls on your phone. It's a future that should sound very good indeed.
VoLTE stands for Voice over Long Term Evolution, which sounds like gibberish when you spell it out like that, doesn't it?
A more helpful way to put it is simply Voice over LTE. LTE is the mobile network standard employed for 4G connectivity. It enables huge bandwidth and vastly improved data speeds when doing anything internety on your smartphone.
VoLTE, then, is a technology that harnesses this extra capacity to enable you to make superior voice calls over a 4G network connection.
What are the real-world benefits?
You know that distant, cold, slightly fuzzy tone that 3G and even landline voice calls have? That's gone with VoLTE, with calls sounding far more natural and easy-on-the-ear.
Think of it as an HD voice call.
Also, VoLTE enables calls to be connected around twice as fast as equivalent 2G or 3G calls, so there'll be far less waiting around.
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The introduction of VoLTE will boost network coverage for voice calls. There are some areas where only 4G is available and 2G and 3G signals don't make it through, thanks to the different frequency 4G operates at. With voice calling enabled across all three network types, you'll be laughing. But mostly talking.
Finally, VoIP should be good for your smartphone's battery life. Presuming you spend most of your time in a 4G area, your phone currently has to keep switching back to 3G when you want to make calls. This is a real power sapper. VoIP calls will mean that your phone won't have to do this quite so much.
Is it anything like VoIP?
Kind of, but VoLTE has the potential to be much, much better. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) enables you to make voice calls over a regular internet data connection.
If you've ever used Skype or FaceTime to carry out a voice call, you know what this is like. It's generally better quality than your normal 3G calls, but with the odd annoying drop in connection when an information packet goes missing.
VoLTE will offer a more consistent, stable, and altogether more seamless experience by employing an IP Multimedia Subsystem and fancy circuit switch technology.
It's not available in the UK - yet
Before you get too excited, know that VoLTE is only available certain countries at present. The US and Singapore have it, for example, but not the UK.
However, back in June, EE - the UK's biggest, 4Gest mobile network - announced that it would be trialling the technology in this country in the second half of 2014.
"When we have rigorously tested the performance of 4G calling and made sure that it matches our 2G and 3G quality, we’ll launch it nationwide on our 4G network," said EE. We sincerely hope it will do a lot more than "match" 2G's quality, or this whole VoLTE thing will be for nought.
Vodafone announced its own internal trials back at the beginning of August.
Essentially, UK 4G users should hope to see VoLTE support rolling out in this country some time in 2015. If it's not with us by 2016, we'll be very miffed indeed.