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VoLTE subscriptions to hit 2 million by 2013

CDMA operators together with equipment vendors are pushing hard to bring VoLTE to the market


Published: 15 May, 2012


The Voice over LTE (VoLTE) market is set for unparalleled growth over the next four years, reveals a recent report from ARCchart. The research firm estimates that there will be as many as 74 Million VoLTE enabled subscribers at the end of 2016. While this figure is a far cry from mobile VoIP subscriptions based on Over-the-top (OTT) applications such as Skype (which is forecast to hit 510 million subscriptions by the same time), it will represent as many as 10 % of all LTE subscriptions.

Carriers are moving quickly towards LTE based all-IP access networks and are keen to bring their valuable voice and messaging services to these networks. Most LTE carriers with a WCDMA/GSM background are relying on the interim Circuit Switched Fallback (CSFB) solution that allows dynamic switching between LTE for data and WCDMA interfaces for voice on user devices. CDMA operators on the other hand have been forced to concurrently use of both CDMA and LTE radio interfaces at the same time, which drains handset battery life and has led to criticism from customers. As a result CDMA operators together with equipment vendors are pushing hard to bring VoLTE to the market.

LTE has now undergone significant deployment in major CDMA markets, such as the US and South Korea. The next part of the equation is availability of VoLTE enabled handsets. Market analysts expect Qualcomm to release a chip supporting VoLTE in the second half of this year, while MetroPCS, LG Uplus and SK plan device launches soon after Qualcomm's release date.

MetroPCS executives stated in their Q1'2012 earnings call that the company will launch two to three smartphones with VoLTE capabilities in the second half of the year. Moving to VoLTE will allow MetroPCS to refarm its CDMA spectrum. MetroPCS CFO Braxton Carter said Samsung will provide the company's first VoLTE smartphone, though he declined to give details. The executives reiterated that the carrier will make sure that the quality of its VoLTE service is comparable, or exceeds, its current CDMA voice offering.

LG Uplus conducted VoLTE field tests in February and is expected to release VoLTE handset in advance of activating the service on its network in October. SK Telecom expects to launch full VoLTE services in July. Together with the US, South Korea has seen LTE gain significant traction and it became the world's first country to have all of its carriers offering LTE (SK Telecom, Korea Telecom and LG Uplus).

However, during an interview with Network World, Verizon VP of Network Hans Leutenegger said that the carrier won't be deploying large scale VoLTE until late 2013, and widespread commercialization of VoLTE is now expected to take place around this time. In 2013, ARCchart estimates there will be over 2 million VoLTE enabled devices in the market, with the US and South Korean operators accounting for a major proportion of subscriptions. ARCchart estimates that these 2 million subscriptions will account for nearly $56 million in VoLTE service revenues.

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