BY Capgemini
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What happens

On 28 January 2016, Orange announced it would gradually roll out VoLTE technology (Voice Over LTE) - voice calls via 4G - for some of its clients. Bouygues Telecom preceded Orange by a few months. 

so what?

Trainer at Orsys and research-professor at the University of Poitiers

Frédéric Launay has been with the University of Poitiers since 2004. He teaches in the Network and Communications Department and is also a research-professor with the LIAS (IT and Automated Systems Laboratory)...

By transmitting calls over 4G networks, "Voice over Long Term Evolution" technology offers unrivalled voice quality as well as services such as video conferencing and document sharing. It is an exciting opportunity for telecoms operators who want to challenge the dominance of apps like WhatsApp, Skype and Viber.

Finally there's something new in the mobile phone industry. VoLTE technology, as it has been christened (meaning Voice over Long Term Evolution), plans to use 4G all-IP networks  - networks that were previously only reserved for data transfer - for voice calls. Not only will connections be almost instantaneous, but the caller will also benefit from increased voice quality. Gone are the days of crackling: sound will be high definition, notably thanks to a specific type of broadband codec.  

A high definition voice and additional services

The transition to broadband also paves the way for associated communication services such as instant messaging, videoconferencing or even document sharing. While calling, a user will be able to share a presentation with the person on the other end of the line, for example. Orange's announcement reveals that VoLTE will be coupled with VoWiFi and WiFi Calling. What that means is that it will be possible to make a call via a WiFi network when LTE coverage is not so good - inside closed rooms, for example, or notably in so-called "black indoor" areas such as corridors. In both cases, operators will have to make large-scale investments in order to upgrade IP Multimedia Subsystems (IMS), the technology which lies at the very heart of networks. It is IMS which will ensure that resources are available on the 4G network and which will manage priorities. 

A response to OTT

VoLTE constitutes a strategic investment in response to so-called Over The Top (OTT) stakeholders. These newcomers to the web, just like Skype, WhatsApp or Viber, use data flow in order to offer "free" calls. 

With VoLTE, operators will be able to offer the same services along with added voice call quality. Moreover, it will no longer be necessary for both the caller and the person they are calling to have a WhatsApp or Skype account.  

There are, however, still obstacles to overcome before VoLTE use becomes widespread. For the moment, the only smart phone models able to benefit from VoLTE technology are the latest Apple and Samsung phones (iPhone 6 and Galaxy 6 respectively). 

Operators will also need to improve the software to make VoLTE user-friendly. Once that's done, they will then have to offer value-added services.

Services could carry a fee

VoLTE is also held back by customer localisation issues. In the event of an emergency call being made, the operator needs to be able to locate the caller in order to alert the nearest emergency services centre via the traditional network.  

Who cares?

All companies which are yet to make the transition to IP linked communication could potentially be interested. It is an opportunity to ensure harmonisation between company telephony and mobile telephony while at the same time being able to transfer calls, divert calls to an assistant, put people on hold, engage in conversations with multiple participants, use attendance indicators, do videoconferencing and much more.
Document sharing during a conversation would also be possible. Another type of company that could be interested is one seeking to uphold policies concerning out-of-office periods, in order to limit access to working hours only. All calls received between 7pm and 7am could, for example, be diverted towards a partner's voice mailbox.  

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