AT&T “announces” HD voice over LTE for later in 2013.

A senior AT&T executive has confirmed the company plans on rolling out Voice over LTE (VoLTE) later this year.

AT&T Senior Vice President of Network Technologies Kris Rinne told attendees at VentureBeat’s Mobile Summit that the company would be delivering HD voice later this year, repeating what the carrier had said previously. 

Little other detail was made available, but there are two questions to consider in the bigger HD voice picture–

1) Will Apple support VoLTE over the iPhone 5?

2) Will AT&T support HD voice over its “legacy” GSM/HSPA network?

It’s anyone’s guess if Apple will support VoLTE on the iPhone 5.  Given the stiff-arm Apple gave to Sprint on supporting CDMA HD voice, anything is possible.  The most likely scenario is an iOS upgrade to support VoLTE, plus a distributed client app directly available from the carrier offering VoLTE.

An alternative scenario is no VoLTE support for the iPhone 5, with VoLTE tied directly to newer versions of the iPhone.  As unlikely as it sounds, it is possible.  The iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S both have the physical hardware to support GSM-based HD voice, but Apple only supports the iPhone 5.

AT&T has given no indication it will support HD voice on its existing GSM/HSPA network and would appear to have no incentive to support the higher quality service.  The carrier wants customers to move to LTE so it can ultimately shut down its legacy GSM network, thereby saving money and allowing it to refarm spectrum to LTE for faster data rates.

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