Market musings

Technically Speaking: How VoLTE Improves Sound Quality Over VoIP Services

by Sasha Viasasha
October 17, 2017

Voice over IP (VoIP) was a good start. It took the groundbreaking idea of treating sound like data and made it work. That was 20 years ago, and though VoIP providers continue to work on stabilizing VoIP,  problems still exist in terms of echoes, jitters and latency. In particular, small businesses are less happy with the quality of their VoIP phone service than enterprises, who can afford a more robust system. 

This year, Ericcson projected that there will be 540 million VoLTE subscriptions by 2018 and 4.6 billion by the end of 2022. Researchers at Signals Research Group looked into what is driving that steep adoption curve.

They found that VoLTE services gave customers a better quality of service (QoS) and consumed less battery life on mobile phones than VoIP phone services. The report concluded, “VoLTE delivered a consistently higher call quality than circuit-switched voice and over-the-top applications. In addition, VoLTE really shined when it came to its network requirements, consuming far less than a Skype voice call, which translates into a meaningfully longer smartphone battery life.”

Samsung explained why they are investing heavily in VoLTE in saying, “Through the use of Adaptive Multirate Wideband (AMR-WB) codecs and SIP signaling, VoLTE provides HD-quality voice that exceeds OTT VoIP and 3G voice quality… Operators who have launched VoLTE have seen their subscribers make more calls (+36% vs. 3G observed in Korea) and longer calls (+55% vs. 3G).”

How does VoLTE accomplish that? Here is a deeper dive into these technologies compare to each other.

VoIP vs VoLTE packet handling

A data packet is handled the same, whether its numbers or voice in the VoIP services. Both have the same priority unless you have an IT specialist tune your network to identify and prioritize voice packets. In contrast, VoLTE transmits over 4G or higher networks.

The LTE portion stands for Long Term Evolution because it was built for interoperability and to adapt to changing technology. Currently, VoLTE data packets have the capacity to carry 3X the amount of information over 3G, which is still the VoIP standard in many parts of the world. The standardized packets of VoLTE allow data to travel between carriers and around the world on internet switches, eliminating the step of converting data among various formats which leads to information loss.  

VoIP vs VoLTE on voice quality

Ultimately, users judge phone technology based on how well they can hear the person on the other end. For business users, call quality impacts customer experience, so a bad call can mean a bad customer experience, lost sale and diminished brand credibility. 

In that respect, VoLTE’s emphasis on QoS of the voice component, while VoIP measures it success on network efficiency. QoS tests by Nokia found that VoIP clients generated 10x more data connections in the mobile network than a VoLTE client during a call. VoIP apps needed 20 - 40% more throughput than VoLTE clients during active calls to maintain call quality.  That’s also the main reason why VoIP apps consume more battery life.

VoLTE code also includes internal QoS components such as IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) and radio access network features that reduce latency, correct errors automatically in fringe coverage areas.

VoLTE enables HDVoice

VoLTE standards make High Definition Voice (HDVoice) possible. The IMS framework  makes it possible for VoLTE standards to transmit the HD Voice. Only 4G and higher LTE networks are able to encode the wideband audio required. So far, 165 operators in 73 countries have invested in VoLTE, including 102 operators that have launched an HD voice service using VoLTE in 54 countries. Juniper Research estimates that VoLTE roaming will be common in the US and abroad as VoLTE usage exceeds10 trillion minutes by 2021.

Where VoLTE goes next

Both Android and Apple phones now support VoLTE, starting with phones running Android Lollipop and iOS 8. If you’re unsure whether a specific make/model of phone is VoLTE ready can run an app like VoLTE Checker or contact your carrier.

In the very near future, VoLTE and 5G will spell the end of support for 2G and 3G networks, simply because operators are running out of spectrum. Telecom analyst Scott Sumner at Accedian Networks pointed out that, “Many carriers are looking to boost LTE coverage without having to invest heavily in small cells and hetnets. Currently, 3G networks have a lock on “sweet spot” lower frequency bands capable of longer transmission distances and deeper indoor penetration, where more than 60% of calls originate. If VoLTE – and higher-throughput LTE – is to replace what we have today, it needs to take advantage of these frequencies to ensure seamless, ubiquitous coverage.”

The next generation of virtual phone systems

Two decades ago, VoIP made PBX systems obsolete. Legacy office phone systems like hosted PBX were too expensive and too frustrating. They weren't made for the mobile world we live in today. New systems like business VoIP services and SIP phones were less expensive, but still far too complex for the average small business. The consumer app market has changed what business buyers expect from a turnkey solution. 

Spoke is a next-generation virtual phone system, built to run on top of new technologies like VoLTE, HDVoice and 5G networks.

The Spoke app transforms the phones that your employees already love into a global mobile network, with local numbers in 56 countries.

In researching how employees at small companies actually use their phones, we've found out that less is more. The intuitive Spoke interface contains all the business phone line essentials that small businesses want and none of the bells and whistles that distract employees from doing their work.

Spoke is as easy to install and easy to use, yet powerful enough to replace your office phone system, eliminating up to 88% of your telecom costs.

Contact us for an interactive demo or a free trial and let's figure out how we can get you talking.