Think about how you use your mobile phone. If your data doesn’t work, then you are inconvenienced for a short time, but what if you can’t make a phone call? How will you get help if you are stranded by the side of the road and your phone doesn’t work? The reality is that, even in today’s world of high speed mobile broadband, plain old voice communications is still the most important service offered to you by communication service providers.
Just last month, Nokia was awarded our 100th VoLTE network deployment contract by a customer in Latin America. This is a great milestone for both Nokia and the communications industry in general. While 4G LTE forms the basis of modern mobile broadband, it is VoLTE (which stands for Voice over LTE) that allows service providers to offer voice services for these mobile phones.
The importance goes beyond just current 4G-based voice and data bundles that you can buy from your mobile phone company today. 5G is coming, and with it a whole new world of services and capabilities that will fundamentally change our lives.
Imagine, for example, each passenger in a car watching a different streamed Ultra-HD movie on a long road trip. Or what if you could be fully immersed in a VR world where you can “touch” things remotely – think about the possible applications. Or even imagine playing multiplayer video games with no lag at all. These are the types of experiences that 5G enables.
And yet you still need that most basic of services – the ability to make a phone call.
VoLTE is important to 5G
Most service providers will deploy 5G alongside their current 4G LTE network to start, and then slowly transition everything to 5G over a period of years. The 5G network core is radically different in architecture, and takes advantage of several important technology advances (see Ester Navarro’s blog, “What’s central to the success of 5G?”).
But the system that provides voice and video communications over the network remains the same. It’s based on 3GPP’s IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) architecture, using the VoLTE specification set. In fact, the same IMS with only minor changes will continue to provide this function even in purely native 5G standalone networks.
This is why VoLTE is so important. As communications companies roll out 5G networks, voice communications will continue to be based on the same VoLTE/IMS technology. It’s behind the scenes, providing that essential voice service. But if a mobile operator has not yet deployed VoLTE and IMS, they cannot provide voice services for 5G in a native or standardized way, since 5G does not itself provide native voice or video communications.
Voice funds the 5G future
From the mobile operators’ perspective, voice is a Big Deal. The fact is that, even in the most developed markets, they still derive most of their revenue from their communications business, usually sold from a menu of voice/data bundles. It’s this revenue that is funding 5G network deployments, and it’s also this revenue they need to maintain as the world transitions to 5G.
So that’s why it’s such great news that Nokia celebrates with our most recent VoLTE deployment milestone. It means that another service provider has positioned themselves for a 5G future. It’s a cool future, and one that Nokia is helping to bring about.
Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokia and @nokianetworks using #5G #4G #VoLTE