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Mobile Network Operators Prepare for Voice-over-LTE

Valuable wireless spectrum repurposing is gaining momentum across the globe. Meanwhile, even though the deployment of 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks is proceeding as anticipated, there are still numerous challenges ahead for mobile network service providers.

The launch of Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) services by major carriers -- first in South Korea and soon in the United States -- is part of the effort to move voice calls from the circuit switched 2G and 3G networks to the packet switched LTE networks.

To achieve this evolutionary goal, mobile network operators have built extensive LTE networks, which also serve as a marketing tool to stay in competition with other providers in their market.

"For CDMA operators such as Verizon, aggressive LTE deployment is necessary because a VoLTE call cannot fall back to the circuit switched domain," said Ying Kang Tan, research associate at ABI Research.

Even for WCDMA operators like AT&T, it makes sense to do likewise -- because LTE is much more spectral efficient than legacy WCDMA technology.

As such, by the end of next year, when VoLTE has gained more momentum, ABI Research expects more than 93 percent of the North American population to have access to LTE.

Underlying the adoption of LTE is the support from mobile handset OEMs.

In 2014, LTE handset shipments in Asia-Pacific and North America -- the two largest handset markets -- will grow by 28 percent and 25 percent to reach 150 million and 81 million respectively.

As China joins the VoLTE technology adopter's list next year, more handsets will support this service. Other devices will increasingly have access to LTE networks as well. Tablets with LTE support will see global shipments jump by 67 percent in 2014.

The growth of 72 percent is even higher for the United States, which may come as a surprise for this relatively mature market, as consumers take advantage of shared data plans which are gaining in popularity.

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