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Deutsche Telekom shares 5G SA voice milestone but data still rules

Deutsche Telekom is trumpeting a new 5G Voice over New Radio (VoNR) milestone, but while voice remains important, its impact on the data experience is what really matters.

The German incumbent has announced the successful completion of what it says is the world’s first 5G VoNR call in an end-to-end multi-vendor environment. The call, carried out at a Deutsche Telekom test facility in Warsaw, put VoNR over a 5G standalone network and ran voice and data sessions in parallel. The network vendors involved were Ericsson, which supplied the 5G core, and Nokia, provider of the IMS, but the trial also included commercial terminals from Samsung and Xiaomi and a Mobile Test Platform from Qualcomm. We probably don’t need to mention which big name is missing from the list.

Deutsche Telekom described the trial as an important step towards the commercial introduction of seamless native 5G voice services on its networks, but the development is about much more than just the ability to make voice calls…although that is still a requirement of mobile networks, of course.

The ability to run voice and data services in parallel means VoNR voice will be an important component of many new, or enhanced, 5G data services; these new services will include things like immersive video conferencing and the various services enabled by augmented and virtual reality. We’re not just talking a high-quality voice link so you can ring your mum, here.

“High quality and seamless voice calling remains a must-have service for our customers in the 5G era. The addition of 5G VoNR can be a differentiator for next generation immersive applications that integrate high speed 5G data with high definition audio,” said Alex Choi, SVP Strategy & Technology Innovation at Deutsche Telekom. “Our collaboration with best-in-class partners to validate end-to-end 5G VoNR interoperability is an important step towards the future of 5G voice services for our customers.”

The telco also shared canned statements from its vendor partners, most of which involved the vendor in question talking up their own capabilities. The most interesting came from Nokia’s Marc Erhardt, Head of Cloud and Network Services in its Deutsche Telekom customer team, who echoed Choi’s comments on the importance of voice going forward.

“Voice communication remains a key feature also in the 5G world. Subscribers demand high-quality voice services and voice also plays a role in many of the new data services enabled by 5G. Successful 5G strategies therefore must include a plan for embedding voice into 5G services, and the IMS core will be key for this,” he said.

There was no comment from Deutsche Telekom on when we can expect a commercial launch of  5G VoNR though.

The telco announced its first 5G standalone video call back in March, but was beaten out of the blocks on the launch of standalone 5G by market rival Vodafone, which launched the technology in April and recently revealed plans to accelerate network build, including adding new 5G standalone sites. Meanwhile O2’s German arm is pushing on with plans to launch 5G standalone this summer.

Deutsche Telekom’s 5G VoNR trial is certainly a milestone, but it needs to get its skates on to keep up with its competitors in terms of market deployments.

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