Samsung has sold more than 10 million Galaxy S III smartphones, and soon those devices will be able to support voice over Long-Term Evolution (VoLTE) technology, the company announced Aug. 9. The technology will be available in Korea in August and later in other LTE markets around the world at a less-specific date.
VoLTE uses an IP packet-based service for both voice and data, which enables it to introduce new multimedia services, such as converting a voice call into a video call. It's also more efficient for the carriers' networks and offers "twice the voice frequency of 3G and HD-level audio," the company said in a blog post on the Samsung Tomorrow site.
Another benefit: With VoLTE, users don't need to download an app to use the service.
"Unlike previous LTE smartphones that use a 3G network for voice services," the post continued, "VoLTE-enabled Galaxy S III LTE shifts the transmission of voice calls from a third-generation network to an LTE one, creating a big cost savings."
The site quotes JK Shin, president of Samsung's IT and Mobile Communications division, as saying, "In order to develop a product that supports the world's first VoLTE service, we have worked closely with domestic carriers to conduct performance testing and service stabilization tasks between the Galaxy S III LTE model and the LTE network."
But hold on. As Betanews has pointed out, Samsung looks to be planting a stake in spoken-for ground. On Aug. 7, MetroPCS, the fifth-largest U.S. carrier, announced "the world's first commercial launch of voice over LTE services, availability of the world's first VoLTE-capable handsets and the first sale of a VoLTE-capable handset at one of the company's Dallas-Fort Worth [stores]."
The device was the LG Connect 4G. After a rebate and without a contract, MetroPCS currently offers the smartphone for $249.
Being the world's first operator to reach this milestone "speaks volumes about our company's innovative spirit and passion," MetroPCS CEO Roger Linquist said in a statement. He added that the move to VoLTE will allow the carrier to achieve "significant spectral efficiencies" and to improve its network capacity to the benefit of its LTE customers.
MetroPCS may be a little used to this. In September 2010 it deployed the first LTE network in the United States. Three months later, Verizon Wireless announced it was launching the "world's first large-scale 4G LTE network."
Regardless of who arrived first, the reality is that all major carriers are headed for VoLTE.
Given the improved experience that the technology offers, as well as its efficiencies-it will even help improve device battery life-research firm ARCchart expects there to be 74 million VoLTE-enabled handsets in the market by 2016.
Kristin Rinne, AT&T senior vice president of Network Technologies at AT&T Labs, told attendees at a FierceWireless event in May that that VoLTE is "firmly in our business plan for initial deployments in 2013."
While Verizon Wireless began testing VoLTE technology at least as early as January, the carrier has commented that it's in no rush to offer the service.
"We're optimistic and bullish, but we're not rushing it," Verizon CTO Tony Melone said at a May event, according to Fierce. "We will enable it in 2012. My view is there is no reason to force customers to it."