Verizon and AT&T are working together to enable Voice over LTE (VoLTE) wireless calls through data networks under plans that expect to deliver the expanded services to their customers in 2015.
By using VoLTE, customers will eventually gain HD voice quality and other features that will improve their calls, according to a Nov. 3 announcement by Verizon. The companies called the collaboration "the next step in the evolution of VoLTE technology by enabling VoLTE- to-VoLTE connections between Verizon Wireless and AT&T customers."
A similar partnership was unveiled by T-Mobile and AT&T this past May, according to an earlier eWEEK report.
According to Verizon, VoLTE is an all-IP (Internet Protocol) that deeply integrates a network's enhanced calling features into smartphones, which then creates a seamless experience for customers. By having cellular service providers work together to ensure interoperability for their customers, a better and richer mobile experience for customers is expected, the company stated.
To accomplish this, engineers from both companies are working through a full set of requirements, beginning with extensive testing in lab environments and then moving to field trials, according to Verizon.
"Customers use their smartphones to connect with friends, family and colleagues across service providers and around the world," Tony Melone, Verizon's chief technology officer, said in a statement. "Interoperability among all VoLTE providers takes connectivity to the next level with HD quality voice and additional features that customers want. We're pleased to be working with AT&T as our first interoperating carrier, and we look forward to working with other operators as VoLTE continues to grow."
Krish Prabhu, the president of AT&T Labs and CTO for AT&T, said in a statement that "interoperability of VoLTE between wireless carriers is crucial to a positive customer experience. Customers expect to be able to connect anywhere, anytime—and as LTE technology continues to evolve, it's imperative that we provide a seamless experience between carriers."
Prabhu said AT&T will "continue to work with others in the industry on similar collaborative arrangements and hope to see similar collaboration across the industry in the near future."
Both AT&T and Verizon Wireless have been working closely with the GSMA on the VoLTE initiative.
"Customers benefit even more when services are interconnected and this will extend the reach of rich and reliable all-IP communications to a customer's contacts on another network," Alex Sinclair, the CTO for the GSMA, said in a statement. "Embracing an all-IP future is vital for operators worldwide and the GSMA is delighted that AT&T and Verizon Wireless are bringing these services to their customers."
In May, T-Mobile first offered some VoLTE capabilities, starting first in Seattle, according to an earlier eWEEK report. VoLTE has been a longtime promise of all the major carriers. It puts voice and data on a single radio layer, resulting in faster call connections, the ability to experience LTE-speed data while on a call and clearer, more natural-sounding calls, since VoLTE enables high-definition (HD) Voice technology.
AT&T began offering limited VoLTE services in a handful of U.S. markets the same month—though also in a limited way, with the capabilities only working initially on Samsung Galaxy S 4 Mini devices.
The first VoLTE services in the U.S. actually were offered in 2012 by MetroPCS, the prepaid carrier that T-Mobile acquired in 2013. In 2010, MetroPCS, then the nation's fifth-largest carrier, was also the first in the United States to roll out 4G LTE technology.
AT&T's VoLTE network, complete with HD Voice, was first being made available in areas of Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin and will continue to expand, according to the company.