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Vodafone brings voice calls over 4G with VoLTE

Vodafone has finished trials for a new technology known as Voice over LTE which will allow voice calls over your 4G connection. So how does it work, and what does it mean for the future of 4G in Australia?

Vodafone

Mobile phone calls made via 4G could soon be the norm for Australians with news that Vodafone has completed trials of the technology, known as Voice over LTE or VoLTE.

The telco says VoLTE technology promises "crystal-clear" voice calls with quick connections and "virtually no lag", utilising a 4G data connection, rather than the traditional phone network.

The new feature is already making waves in the US, with AT&T and T-Mobile offering VoLTE in selected locations, and Australians can expect the technology at some point during 2015. Vodafone won't say exactly when we will see Voice over LTE this year, but the telco is already spruiking its features.

"With VoLTE, customers will enjoy call connection times that are two to three times quicker," said Vodafone Chief Technology Officer Benoit Hanssen. "There'll be virtually no lag between pressing the call button and being connected to the number you've dialled."

Another big feature, according to Vodafone, is the ability to maintain a 4G data connection even when you're on a call. Although it's not something you would necessarily notice unless you're browsing the net regularly while you're talking on the phone, with VoLTE, your smartphone won't drop back to 3G when making or receiving calls.

Vodafone CEO Iñaki Berroeta said consumers would see real benefits with the technology.

"Immediately, you are going to get better quality of voice and you are going to get quicker connection times," he said. There are many things that come with that, a lot of benefits for customers.

"Voice over LTE is really IP connectivity which is much more flexible than traditional switching, which is what telephones have been doing for many, many years."

Vodafone is not the first to unveil VoLTE in Australia -- Telstra demonstrated its first coast-to-coast VoLTE call in November last year -- but the addition of another telco in the VoLTE space indicates it could be a big gamechanger for mobile telecommunications in Australia in the long run.

However, Vodafone's VoLTE announcement came with a caveat on compatibility. While the telco pointed to the "popular" smartphones that would be able to take advantage of the technology -- such as the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 4, and the Huawei Ascend Y550 -- this raises the questions of which devices will not be able to make Voice over LTE calls.

Australians are already coming to terms with the new world order of 4G device compatibility, as the telcos start play across different spectrums and bring their own flavours of 4G to customers.

Low-frequency bands (such as the 700MHz spectrum) have brought better speeds indoors, while telcos are now also offering 'carrier aggregation', combining high- and low-frequency bands for a better 4G service. Each telco has a slightly different offering, each with a different name ( 4GX for Telstra, 4G Plus for Optus and 4G+ for Vodafone) and device compatibility varies.

With the addition of VoLTE, Australians will have another great new mobile feature, but not all smartphones will be up to delivering it. The telcos will certainly have their work cut out for them to make sure there is as little confusion as possible.