Feature Article

August 15, 2014

VoLTE Voice Quality Better than 3G or Skype HD, Test Suggests

Commercially deployed Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) provides better voice quality, faster connections and less drain on mobile handset batteries than 3G circuit switched (CS) voice, Internet calling services or Skype, a study conducted by Signals Research Group, and sponsored by Alcatel-Lucent, has found.

The report found that VoLTE call quality greatly exceeded that of 3G circuit-switched voice and was measurably higher than the high definition voice service offered by Skype.

With network loading, and in particular with background applications running on the mobile phone and transferring data with the network, the VoLTE results were considerably better than Skype

VoLTE call setup time was nearly twice as fast as 3G circuit-switched fallback call setup.

VoLTE also used substantially fewer network resources than Skype voice, which in turn resulted in longer estimated device battery life for the subscriber and a more efficient network for the operator, the study found.

SRG conducted its research from June to July 2014 to evaluate the performance of VoLTE against 3G CS voice and Skype. The research was done within a commercially active VoLTE market where Alcatel-Lucent provides the radio access network, the core network and IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem), including the primary VoLTE functionality.

Tests were conducted for everyday conditions, including stationary and mobile locations, strong and weak radio coverage, and under a variety of network loading and multi-tasking conditions.

Those findings, one might argue, are intended to demonstrate that VoLTE will have performance advantages even under conditions of network congestion, compared to both expect Skype and 3G circuit switched voice.

Many potential adopters likely have had concerns in that area. VoLTE voice quality depends on a lot of variables, including the voice coder choices, the radio frequency conditions at each mobile cell site, scheduler algorithms, the protocol options, and other issues including handset design.

The Signals Research Group study cannot answer the question of how well VoLTE will perform under all conditions, on every network. It does suggest a properly managed network can provide voice quality better than other existing alternatives.

Some might argue the bigger issue is the business model. Some believe VoLTE quality can be leveraged to protect or even increase voice pricing. Others doubt that will be possible.

At the very least, the overall cost of supporting voice operations on an LTE network should be advantageous, compared to any fallback alternative that relies on either 3G or 2G networks for voice services.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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