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VoLTE – a technology to be heard of in 2013

10 Jan 2013  | Ralph Gibbemeyer

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EDN Asia's Disruptive Engineering features your nominations of enabling technologies and applications that you believe could change the way we work or play, or something that you think will affect most electronics projects in 2013. Today's article is written by Ralph Gibbemeyer, Head of Application Development at Rohde & Schwarz

 Ralph Gibbemeyer, Rohde & Schwarz

Ralph Gibbemeyer,

Rohde & Schwarz

At Rohde & Schwarz, we have a focus on RF technology, with cellular radio being a core business. In this field, one technology is likely to have a very big impact on the engineering community in 2013 is Voice over LTE (VoLTE).

After thorough evaluation, VoLTE is now accepted as the de-facto standard for handling speech via LTE packet cellular. It embeds the voice application into the IP Multimedia Sub-system (IMS). 2013 will see agreement on remaining discrepancies regarding IMS implementation, enabling roaming. Innovators such as SK Telecom, LG U-Plus, Metro-PCS, AT&T and Verizon Wireless are either already operating or planning for VoLTE technology.

In extensive discussions among cellular operators, the IMS-based VoLTE approach outdid potential non-IMS approaches and is fully backed by the GSMA. Introducing a high quality voice alternative to traditional cellular, VoLTE has the potential to open the door for large-scale spectrum re-farming by substituting existing circuit switched voice services like GSM, PDC, CDMA and UMTS.

Most LTE operators currently handle voice by establishing a circuit switched connection ("circuit switched fall-back"). User equipment may have a dual radio architecture to allow for simultaneous voice and data connections. VoLTE provides speech as a packet application to finely adjustable levels of service, with quality depending on received signal strength and radio resources available in the cell. Whereas the first implementation of GSM came with one fixed audio bandwidth at a single fixed coding rate, VoLTE offers a range of coding rates and audio bandwidths of up to near-HiFi quality.

Rohde & Schwarz leads the way in type approval tools for cellular voice service quality, since introducing validated audio conformance test tools for GSM 15 years ago. Utilising IMS to negotiate voice service parameters between network and user equipment not only involves audio and performance quality analysis relating RF parameters to speech quality aspects, but also requires testing the necessary IMS protocol and LTE signalling.

VoLTE offers operators an alternative to circuit-switched voice and promises a seamlessly integrated higher quality voice connection to their subscribers. It is on track to develop a potentially disruptive edge long before we will see broad rollout of the next packet cellular technology, LTE-Advanced.

Ralph Gibbemeyer received degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Bremen and in Business Administration from Munich Technical University. After working in development of hardware and measurement firmware at Rohde & Schwarz, he moved in 1997 to product marketing for T&M instruments with a focus on Asian markets. Since 2011, he heads the central application development at R&S headquarters in Munich, Germany.


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