Mobile communication technology is evolving. Voice over LTE (VoLTE) deployment is quickly ramping up, with improvements in network efficiency and spectrum reuse as the primary drivers. There are currently sixty-three VoLTE commercial networks in operation, according to the latest market study by IHS.
This is a net addition of 23 VoLTE networks to the existing 40 that were online at the end of December 2015. In each of the currently operational 63 VoLTE networks, existing subscribers become de facto VoLTE users when they upgrade their devices to LTE-capable ones.
As an example, the Verizon Advanced Calling service is a device-driven offering. Users do not sign up for Advanced Calling, but if they buy a device that supports VoLTE, then they are on the Verizon VoLTE network by default.
How VoLTE Services are Being Deployed
For the majority of those VoLTE networks, the service is marketed as a device -- such as a smartphone -- feature rather than something to which a user subscribes. Therefore, it appears that network upgrades will continue in the coming months and years, as the VoLTE ecosystem is now firmly in place.
Moreover, according to the IHS assessment, there are currently 500 commercial Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks in the world, and every single network will eventually support VoLTE -- that's why it's inevitable that all voice services will eventually migrate to LTE technology.
However, making VoLTE work perfectly remains a challenge, and service providers know they need to achieve a degree of LTE network ubiquity and then expand their IP multimedia subsystem (IMS) infrastructures to fully support VoLTE offerings.
But in the meantime, the VoLTE network operator frontrunners are enabling more VoLTE users.
Outlook for VoLTE Market Development
By 2020, worldwide VoLTE service revenue is projected to reach $6.3 billion, with almost half coming from North America, where average revenue per user (ARPU) is the highest in the world.
At that time, Asia-Pacific will have three times more VoLTE users than North America but revenue will be 13 percent lower.
Finally, as VoLTE deployments surge worldwide, the need for global network roaming agreements becomes greater. It's the next big technology transition for mobile network service providers, and it's already fueling the debate over preferences for local breakout (LBO) versus S8 home routing (S8HR) approaches.