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February 06, 2012

Qualcomm's VoLTE Concept Could Finish off the Era of Metered Cellular Communication

Voice over IP (VoIP) has been gaining a lot of popularity with applications like Skype and MagicJack taking the scene with low-cost telephony services over a broadband connection, but so far, this applies only to calls initiated from an emulated land line. What if, perhaps, a company would come up with a way to initiate cellular communication through a wireless carrier web connection? Qualcomm seems to have the answer with a new concept called Voice over Long Term Evolution (VoLTE). The company, which is responsible for mobile technology and innovations, has designed a chip that makes VoLTE conversations possible through cell phones.

Instead of utilizing a standard Ethernet connection, VoLTE will take advantage of the new 4G LTE standard in mobile services to carry phone calls from one point to another much like VoIP does. VoLTE couldn't use 3G, particularly because of its lack of reliability and its inability to sustain a continuous connection between two points. Fortunately, 4G has become more popular this year, and more popular phone manufacturers are starting to release smartphones that support this type of network protocol. Some phone carriers might not like this option and attempt to limit VoLTE as much as possible, since the majority of their funds come from charging customers for phone calls they make through standard mobile signals. Their attempts will only last so long, though, before they go the way of Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) and Qualcomm helps push VoLTE as a new standard for telecommunications.

There's one drawback of the proposed VoLTE technology, though. Cell phones that attempt to make a voice call through data media such as 4G LTE will have to rely on software or hardware bridges that will help warp both technologies with one another. If the bridge doesn't exist, people calling through VoLTE will experience a cut in their call whenever they move over to a network node that doesn't have VoLTE-compatible technology. That basically means you won't be able to move around much once you find a node that supports 4G. Otherwise, your call will drop off once the phone switches over to the next available networking protocol.

Because of this dilemma, you might have to wait a while before the technology becomes a feasible alternative to metered cell calls, at least until mobile carriers find a way to perfect the handoff system in place for switching from one network node to another. Qualcomm designed something for this, though, called the MSM8960 Snapdragon S4, and will demonstrate its capabilities in the Mobile World Congress later this month. If Qualcomm manages to pull its stunt off, carriers are going to be frantic, searching for another way to monetize their profiteering empire.

Miguel Leiva-Gomez is a professional writer with experience in computer sciences, technology, and gadgets. He has written for multiple technology and travel outlets and owns his own tech blog called The Tech Guy, where he writes educational, informative, and sometimes comedic articles for an audience that is less versed in technology.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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