NTT DoCoMo launching HD voice, VoLTE in June

Japan’s largest mobile operator said it plans to launch Voice over LTE (VoLTE) in late June.  Callers will be able to make HD voice calls simultaneously with a data connection, according to reports.

Four smart phones and two tablets offered by the carrier will  be able to conduct VoLTE calls after a software upgrade scheduled in or around late June.

Data charges for VoLTE-based video calls will be offered free of charge until September 2015, after which those calls will incur both voice and data charges.

This week marks the second major carrier to officially commit to VoLTE deployment this week. AT&T announced it will roll out VoLTE in four markets on May 26.

Rumor: Apple iPhone 6 will support VoLTE

Sources near Silicon Valley say Apple won’t be supporting Voice over LTE (VoLTE) until it releases the iPhone 6 this fall. 

Currently, the Apple iPhone 5/5c/5s supports HD voice on 3G/HSPA-esque networks; this includes nearly all of the overseas HD voice deployments, plus the T-Mobile US network. 

According to Sprint’s website, the iPhone 5s/5c supports HD voice – since the carrier currently supports HD voice using Qualcomm’s 1X Advanced CDMA technology, take it for what it is.

Editorial: AT&T officially announced HD voice support via VoLTE

I’m currently working through a couple of pieces for publication over at TMCnet on the official (press release, not rumored, not CTO-dropping buzzwords and vague dates) AT&T announcement for HD voice support in limited markets.

Consumers Digest is working on an HD voice piece.  I feel sorry for the reporter, because he asked about interoperability and I had to send him over a page of answers and discussions.

Summary bits–

1) AT&T is releasing VoLTE in four “select” markets: Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

2) Expansion will continue on a market-by-market basis

3) Only phone supported/mentioned for VoLTE at this time is Samsung Galaxy S4 mini.  No word/indication on firmware upgrades for existing LTE phones in customer’s hands.  Doubtlessly there will be more phones.

4) Nothing on supporting HD voice over existing 3G/HSPA network – no surprise, since AT&T wants everyone migrated onto LTE in the future

5) No discussion on interop

The Mass Media seems to be missing the boat on carrier HD voice interoperability and the coming mess for consumer confusion. Ah well.

- Doug

Fierce Wireless: Verizon will have VoLTE, HD voice in 2014

Verizon Wireless says it will have VoLTE with HD voice via AMR-WB this year, according to a piece in FierceWireless Tech.

Multiple sources are cited, including a statement by a Verizon Wireless spokesperson saying VoLTE will come out sometime in 2014 and a research note by Credit Suisse predicting VoLTE will be introduced in the second half of this year.

Engadget: AT&T to launch VoLTE in Chicago, Minneapolis this month

AT&T is going to roll out VoLTE in Chicago and Minneapolis by the end of May, according to a report by Engadget.  If correct, AT&T will beat Verizon out of the gate for the first U.S. VoLTE HD voice deployment.

MetroPCS deployed a non-standard version of VoLTE in 2012, going with a narrowband codec instead of the mandated AMR-WB.

Launch date for AT&T VoLTE is expected to be on May 23, according to Engadget sources. AT&T says it is “wrapping up” initial market trials with markets ready for VoLTE this year.

No indication when AT&T would be able to deliver VoLTE nationwide, but there’s been a lot of HD voice buzz over the last 24 hours between Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon.

Vodafone New Zealand boasts 400,000 HD voice customers

This week, Vodafone New Zealand announced it had more than 400,000 customers that had “access” to HD voice service on its network – assuming HD voice capable phones. 

Vodafone launched HD voice service in New Zealand in November 2013 and now boasts it has 21 HD-voice capable devices in its portfolio.

New York Times piece on mobile HD voice and call quality

The New York Times published a piece on HD voice coming to the U.S. market via Sprint and T-Mobile.

“With HD Voice, Better Call Quality Is Coming. Text Your Friends” does a good job of capturing the painful history of cellular carriers delivering HD voice in the U.S.

The two most revealing points within the piece:

1) AT&T and Verizon wouldn’t respond to inquires on HD voice.  HD Voice News is not surprised, given the problems continue to have with VoLTE.

2) An assertion by a representative of the GSM Association (GSMA) that Sprint will be able to exchange HD voice calls with other carriers because it uses the GSMA HD voice logo.  This is an interesting assertion, given that there are no formal documents out of GSMA on how HD voice calls would be moved between the CDMA world (Sprint) to other network technologies (GSM and LTE).

Hopefully GSMA will provide a more detailed answer at some point rather than “If they have the HD voice logo, they should be interoperable.”

Estonia gets/tests mobile HD voice

Estonia mobile operator has started testing and/or has implemented HD voice, according to a report by Telecompaper.   There’s a statement that HD voice is “already available” for both 3G postpaid and prepaid subscribers, with a “full launch” expected in a month.

EMT is not currently providing HD voice on its LTE network.

Sprint sneaks by HD voice support on the iPhone 5s, 5c

Without fanfare, Sprint’s HD voice FAQ on its website lists the Apple iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s as “HD Voice-enabled” phones.

It looks like the original Sprint iPhone 5 didn’t make the cut, judging from the list.

One question answered.

Editorial : Enough is enough, U.S. carriers. Support HD Voice News

I’ve been covering the HD voice ecosystem since 2009.  If you don’t believe me, there’s a set of reports over at TMC from 2011 to 2013 documenting all the things I’ve witnessed. Or simply Google “HD Voice News” and see what pops up.

Over the past five years, I’ve had the pleasure and honor of receiving briefings and email from France Telecom, Ericsson, Qualcomm, D2 Technologies, Qualcomm, and numerous players in the space.  To be fair, I’ve also had some good discussions with Verizon’s subject matter expert on HD voice on the enterprise side.

Unlike the majority of media stories on HD voice, I’ve tried to offer critical coverage of the fits and starts of implementing higher quality voice on U.S. mobile networks, rather than simply regurgitating the latest press releases or parroting what’s been spoon feed to a publication because I’ve been slipped a couple of bucks for advertising. 

(Ooma, we’ve had our issues.  But I respect the way you guys got your act together).

About the only U.S. wireless carrier that wants to talk about HD voice to HD Voice News these days seems to be T-Mobile U.S.   John Legere (or whomever is running his Twitter account) has favored or re-sent a couple of my tweets.

To be fair, those tweets have been critical of Sprint and its sudden renaissance of HD voice.  And Sprint didn’t invite me, so I’m being a little whiny, but after 5 years of covering the space, I’m entitled.

If you bought an HTC EVO 4G LTE phone supporting HD voice almost 2 years ago (Friday, May 18), Sprint is now just getting around to turn up the service nationwide.   Sooo… the phone is beat up and obsolete by now or will be by July because there’s dog years and there’s handset years and handset years are pretty brutal as we all know.

My open message to my new Twitter bestie @JohnLegere and @TMobile  – I’m more than happy to be your HD voice subject matter expert. Don’t expect me to kiss your feet, but you should get a fair hearing since you guys rolled out HD voice at CES 2013 (without inviting me *cough*cough*).

There are questions that need to be addressed by all U.S. carriers moving forward.  Seamless HD voice calling between carrier networks is the biggest one that I’d love to hear everyone talk about.  An honest answer why AT&T and Verizon both delayed VoLTE rollouts would be nice.

I’m here,

- Doug Mohney