It might not sound all that interesting or important to casual wireless consumer, but T-Mobile’s newfound alliance with the Voice Over LTE via Generic Access (VoLGA) Forum is an important development in the move to 4G LTE adoption. While 4G LTE networks promise to deliver true wireless broadband data speeds, there’s still the issue of how to deal with carriers’ golden geese – voice calls and SMS text messages. As part of the VoLGA Forum, T-Mobile has published specifications for routing money-making voice and SMS services over the LTE data network, bringing the whole world one step closer to a unified spec for routing voice and text messages over future 4G LTE networks.
T-Mobile is planning to convert circuit-switched communications to data-packets that can be ferried across the international wireless operators’ LTE networks. This is known as circuit-switched-over-packet. T-Mobile and VoLGA are moving to have their CS-over-packet protocol approved by the global 3GPP (3rd Generation Partner Project) standards body. In fact, VoLGA is working hand-in-hand with the 3GPP to make the adoption of their protocol even easier on the world’s carriers.
That’s all good and well for all the major network infrastructure vendors – they’re all on board with the VoLGA approach. All vendors, that is, except Nokia Siemens Networks, who are working on their own proprietary voice-over-LTE protocol.
There’s also another problem. Voice and SMS services can be routed through LTE networks by way of an already approved 3GPP standard known as IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS). But, as Unstrung notes, the IMS standard is still too rough around the edges to be a serious contender. And, there’s also the option for carriers to keep their 2G and 3G networks alive for the sole purpose of handling voice and text message communications – not an ideal solution, to say the least.
Plans for voice-over-LTE standards should become a little clearer in a little under a year’s time. We’ll be keeping a close eye this space, stay tuned.