Smart reports PH’s first successful ‘Voice over LTE’ call

Gelo Gonzales

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Smart reports PH’s first successful ‘Voice over LTE’ call
'Voice over LTE' uses LTE technology to make calls that are 'crystal clear, with almost no background noise' and is marketed as 'HD calling' in some places

MANILA, Philippines – Smart demonstrated another way the rapid expansion of LTE coverage in the Philippines will help consumers: “Voice over LTE” (VoLTE) calls. 

Smart, in a press statement, said they were able to make the first successful VoLTE call in the Philippines together with technology partner Ericsson.

A VoLTE call offers voice communications with almost no background noise, according to Smart. As the name implies, it uses LTE or 4G networks that are more traditionally used to carry and transmit data, and allow consumers to connect to the internet wirelessly at high speeds. 

VoLTE strengths

VoLTE calls are performed the same way one would make a regular call today, and won’t require separate apps such as Facebook Messenger or Viber to use. Unlike a regular call, however, VoLTE calls don’t require the phone to shift to a 2G or 3G connection to make the call. The phone can stick to the 4G network the entire time.

Smart says that this ability to stay on 4G leads to another benefit: the phone won’t be disrupted from downloading and receiving data over 4G while a user is on a call. Video calls, without the use of a third-party app, are also made possible through VoLTE.

Call set-up time or the time it takes to connect to another phone is also “drastically reduced,” said Smart. 

When will it be publicly available? 

The soonest that the new call technology will be available to consumers is by the end of 2018. This is in line with the telco’s current 3-year program to deploy LTE coverage in 95% of the country’s cities and municipalities or 97% of the Philippines’ population. 

Joachim Horn, chief technology adviser at PLDT and Smart, said that “ubiquitous LTE coverage is a clear pre-requisite to VoLTE adoption.” Their successful tests, Horn said, are providing them another reason to aggressively pursue the telco’s LTE rollout. 

Horn also said that the cost of phones that are VoLTE-capable is still high and that some manufacturers have yet to enable the feature in their existing models. That the user base is not yet at critical mass is one other reason why VoLTE will not be available in the immediate future. 

Soon but not yet is the case for this new call technology marketed as “HD calling” in some places. 

Smart’s successful test is a nice, if small, step forward. “We have completed a number of key improvement projects in the last few months, and these have turned our network into a strong platform for offering advanced, purely digital services, such as VoLTE,” said Horn. – 

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Gelo Gonzales

Gelo Gonzales is Rappler’s technology editor. He covers consumer electronics, social media, emerging tech, and video games.