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EE holds off on VoLTE, announces wifi calling solution

EE's CTO, Fotis Karonis

UK operator EE, which was the first player in the market to launch LTE, has announced a £275m investment in its voice offering, including plans to deliver voice over wifi in domestic and enterprise environments and a bid to beef up voice quality in the busiest parts of its network.

But the firm has ruled out a launch of Voice over LTE before the end of the year, with CTO Fotis Karonis telling Telecoms.com in an exclusive interview that there is “little immediate benefit” to the technology. VoLTE is not yet performing to the level that is required for commercial deployment, Karonis said, as EE firm revealed that it will start trialling VoLTE at 800MHz later this year in parts of the UK.

“Until we can ensure the same customer experience on VoLTE as on 3G—where we have a dropped call rate of around 0.6 per cent—we won’t introduce this new capability,” Karonis tells Telecoms.com in the interview. “Our circuit-switched fallback for 4G customers is performing extremely well. One of the main customer benefits is HD Voice/AMR-WB, but we’re able to deliver that same codec on the 3G network so there’s little immediate benefit to VoLTE.” In a statement released Friday EE added that it wanted to ensure 90 per cent population coverage before launching its VoLTE service, which it said will happen at an unspecified time in 2015.

Voice quality is, according to Karonis, “the main strength” of the EE brand and while the firm is holding off with VoLTE, it is pushing ahead with a voice over wifi solution aimed at stemming the flow of customers onto other VoIP services. EE stressed the “carrier grade” stature of its wifi calling service, pledging to offer “a higher quality and greater degree of reliability than unmanaged VoIP services.” The service will be available “on the latest handsets capable of supporting the service,” EE said.

The firm also announced a series of network quality initiatives. Its end user smartphone app, which is on more than half a million devices, has been given the capability to alert the network to its location whenever it hits a service whitespot. Meanwhile the “Platinum Project” is a bid to enhance voice service performance in the busiest parts of the UK, with initial focus on London’s M25 motorway, the Canary Wharf area in the city and the South Bank of the Thames.

EE also set out its ambition to halve its 0.6 per cent dropped call rate, saying that it has achieved a consistent rate of 0.4 per cent in Derby, where its network optimisation activities are most advanced.

 

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