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Verizon not launching voice over LTE anytime soon

NEW ORLEANS -- Verizon may be heavily promoting LTE for data, but that doesn't mean it's going to start pushing it for voice services anytime soon.

During an interview with Network World today, Verizon Vice President of Network Hans Leutenegger said that the carrier won't be deploying any voice over LTE (VoLTE) services on its network until late next year at the very earliest. The reason for this, he said, is that Verizon is already largely satisfied with its current voice network and doesn't see the need to push both handset manufacturers and its own customers to use a new technology just yet.

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"The time frames [for switching to VoLTE] will be up to when vendors and device manufacturers are ready," he said. "I don't see it around the corner and I wouldn't be surprised if it doesn't come until well into next year."

Verizon first started testing out VoLTE technology last year, although the company has been relatively quiet about the technology ever since. To date no major U.S. carriers have announced plans to implement VoLTE over their networks anytime in the near future.

Verizon, AT&T and several equipment vendors first joined forces in 2009 to begin work on the VoLTE standard as a way to create voice and SMS standards that would avoid potential fragmentation of LTE services and thus ensure that voice-capable LTE devices could operate on different networks. To that end, the group decided to work with the 3GPP's IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) that is designed to transfer wireless voice services over to IP. In their profile for LTE voice standards, the companies said the increased power of wireless IP networks through 4G technologies "creates the need for a voice evolution ... from existing CS networks to Voice over IP using IMS."

Verizon's LTE network, which launched in December 2010, now covers an estimated two-thirds of the U.S. population, around double the coverage it had when it first came online. Verizon's overall goal is to have its entire current 3G footprint upgraded to LTE by the end of 2013. LTE, which stands for Long Term Evolution, is essentially a bridge from 3G technologies such as HSPA+ and EV-DO Rev. A to the 4G IMT-Advanced technologies that the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) says will deliver consistent speeds in the 100Mbps range. Verizon and AT&T are currently the only two carriers that have LTE networks up and running in the United States, although Sprint is expected to launch its own LTE network in the coming weeks and T-Mobile is slated to roll out LTE sometime in 2013.

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