Vodafone to launch voice over 4G and Wi-Fi in Ireland in early 2018

26 Jul 2017

Vodafone Ireland head of networks, Max Gasparroni. Image: Vodafone

Vodafone is combining voice with data for a higher-quality calling experience.

After successful trials, Vodafone has confirmed that it will be launching a new voice over LTE (VoLTE), or voice or 4G, service as well as a voice over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi) service in early 2018.

Vodafone Ireland’s head of networks, Max Gasparroni, told Siliconrepublic.com that the new services will launch on compatible devices, with high-end smartphones first in the queue.

‘This leads to superior call quality using super HD voice’

VoLTE, he said, offers tangible advantages to enhance the quality of calls, such as the ability to establish a call set-up time of between two and four seconds, as well as HD voice.

An early demo of the service by Gasparroni on a Samsung Galaxy S8 reveals a crisp, high-quality voice experience.

Gasparroni said that VoLTE will be integrated into smartphones as a native dialler, which means users can enjoy the service without the need to download an app.

Seamless data and voice on the go

Another factor is a seamless handover to traditional voice calls if a user moves outside 4G coverage while on the move.

In terms of data, the new technology means that users can continue to surf on 4G rather than slip to 3G, as it does currently during voice calls.

The innovation builds on voice over broadband (VoBB), which Vodafone launched in 2015 to deliver landline connections through broadband modems rather than the traditional PSTN landline.

Separate to VoLTE, the VoWiFi technology is similar to what Eir launched in recent weeks, in that it routes mobile calls straight to broadband via nearby Wi-Fi routers, acting as a kind of femtocell to boost call quality.

“VoWiFi and VoLTE are have completed their trials successfully and they are going to be activated across our networks,” Gasparroni said.

“The platform will be completely transparent and totally integrated with the handset. You just press the phone button and make your call and stay on the 4G network.

“This leads to superior call quality using super HD voice.”

Gasparroni said that a number of high-end devices, such as the Apple iPhone or Sony premium phones, will carry the service, followed by other smartphones in due course.

“In terms of penetration, we expect to reach double-digit percentage of handsets in the first year and potentially grow to 75pc of handsets in the next four to five years,” Gasparroni told Siliconrepublic.com.

“Users will realise the better experience as superior to what they get on WhatsApp or other over-the-top (OTT) platforms.

“The key thing is the assured quality of the call. It will be totally integrated in terms of how people are charged for the calls; it will be charged as a normal voice call. Consumers will not need to worry that it is consuming data as it will come out of their voice minutes bundle.”

The future of networks

Gasparroni said that leveraging the 4G technology will make calls more efficient than 3G.

“The idea is to move as many customers as possible to 4G, which will eventually pave the way ahead for 5G services.

“This is a generational move,” Gasparroni concluded.

The move is part of a raft of measures sweeping through Vodafone lately. The company has committed to invest €500m in its networks in the next three years as 4G coverage has reached 95pc population coverage.

Vodafone also recently revealed a major €120m digital transformation project to deploy an integrated customer interface across fixed, TV, mobile and broadband services.

Madalina Suceveanu, Vodafone CTO, also recently achieved a 1Gbps breakthrough using an Ericsson radio and a Qualcomm Snapdragon X16 LTE mobile test device over 4G evolution.

The company is also trialling its new narrowband internet of things (NB-IoT) network and plans to make it commercially available by this year.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years