Verizon Wireless has finally answered the question of how voice calls will be handled for its 4G LTE network. The carrier is planning a new service, tentatively dubbed VoLTE (voice over LTE), that will handle high quality voice and video calls over 4G, CNN reports.
Since VoLTE will use Verizon’s 4G data network for voice service, subscribers will finally be able to use voice and data services at the same time. The Verizon iPhone, as well as the carrier’s other 3G devices, can’t do voice and data simultaneously due to the limitations of Verizon’s CDMA 3G network. VoLTE will also let the carrier reduce strain on its 3G network, which is expected to be hit with millions of new users thanks to the iPhone.
Calls between VoLTE devices will sound significantly better than 3G calling, though quality will be reduced to what we’re used to today when VoLTE devices call other phones. When users step outside of an LTE coverage area, VoLTE devices will seamlessly hop back to Verizon’s 3G network. Video calls will be tied to subscribers’ phone numbers and won’t require any special applications, much as FaceTime video chat works on the iPhone 4.
The first phone to use the service will be LG’s Revolution 4G, which was among the many 4G devices Verizon showed off at the Consumer Electronics Show last month. The Revolution is expected to be available mid-year, the company said.
It’s still unclear if every Verizon 4G phone will come equipped with VoLTE. During CES, the company vaguely said that only some 4G phones would support simultaneous voice and data service, the key selling point of VoLTE. It’s possible then that some 4G phones will be limited to using only Verizon’s 3G network for calls.
Verizon’s 4G LTE network, which launched in December, currently covers 110 million users, or about a third of the United States population. The company expects its new network to match its current 3G footprint by 2013.
Verizon will unveil VoLTE next week at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona. The company wouldn’t comment to CNN on pricing, but we expect to hear more next week.