VoLTE network to be commercialized
By Cho Mu-hyun
SK Telecom said Wednesday that it plans to commercialize a voice over long-term evolution (VoLTE) network starting September.
The strategy makes perfect sense for SK Telecom as it has increased its target for LTE customers to 7 million by the end of this year from a previous 6 million.
Demand for faster downloading and clearer voice calls is rising here due to the rapid rise of data and visual-intensive digital devices like smartphones.
Company officials officially didn’t comment on the quality of mVoIP service, however, SK claims its VoLTE is far better than mobile voice over Internet protocol (mVoIP) in terms of quality, an apparent attack on Kakao Talk.
The new service will be called HD Voice which will move voice transmission from a third-generation (3G) network on to an LTE one, offering superior voice call quality, HD standing for high-definition.
The firm is also working on Rich Communication Suite (RCS) services, which will allow voice and video calls, short messages, chat and data transfer simultaneously.
Byun Jae-hwan, who heads the development for VoLTE and RCS for SK Telecom, says the first handset supporting RCS will be released as early as August by Samsung Electronics.
Company officials say the quality of calls will be incomparable to mVoIP, which is a hot issue here since Kakao Talk launched its Voice Talk service earlier this month.
“It is wrong to compare VoLTE and mVoIP as it is totally different technology,” said Byun in a press conference at SK’s headquarters in Euljiro, downtown Seoul. “VoLTE related devices are embedded in handsets, so you start off with strong support from the hardware. In contrast, mVoIP is among one of many downloadable apps. VoLTE’s call quality is on a different level.”
SK Telecom’s marketing chief Jang Dong-hyun concurred with his colleague saying: “mVoIP is one of many examples of software that has all the limitations of being a program. It is nothing new, and was initiated 10 years ago. The recent boost in its quality is due to the advancement of the networks, which we provide.”
The service launch date was set for September as there are currently no handsets that can support VoLTE. Company officials say Samsung’s Galaxy S3 will be the first handset that offers VoLTE services.
SK officials said that the fee for the new services will be similar or only slightly higher than its 3G counterpart. They expect that the majority of 3G users will move to LTE but plan to continue supporting the older network.
LTE networks only supported data transmission prior to the development of the new technology, and SK Telecom is the first among domestic carriers to set a concrete date to launch VoLTE.
Rivals KT and LG Uplus have also repeatedly expressed their goal to commercialize VoLTE sometime in the second half of this year.
SK Telecom’s VoLTE services will start in Seoul and six other major cities and expand to 23 by next year.
“We have secured 3.4 million subscribers and predict 7 million by the end of the year,” said Bae Joon-dong, head of SK’s network operation business division. “Customer’s LTE experience is diversifying and we plan to support all their needs with various innovations that we have planned for.” He added that by 2015, SK Telecom expects around 21 million customers.
The firm also stated that its multi-carrier services will launch in June 1, while carrier aggregation _ called LTE-Advanced _ will be completed and commercialized sometime next year. Carrier aggregation will increase download speed by up to 150 megabits per second, officials said.