In recent years, mobile/cellular technologies have undergone a significant transformation with the advent of 4G and 5G networks. With faster internet speeds and improved connectivity, 4G and 5G have revolutionized the way we communicate and access information on our mobile devices.
Additionally, a technological advancement called Voice over LTE (VoLTE) has emerged, enhancing the quality of voice calls and enabling a range of new features and services.
In this article, we will compare and explore the concepts of 4G/LTE and VoLTE, highlighting their differences with pros/cons and the impact they have on our mobile communication experience.
What is VoLTE
VoLTE stands for Voice over Long-Term Evolution or Voice over LTE, which refers to voice calls made over a 4G LTE network. Simply put, VoLTE delivers the voice service as data packets (similar to VoIP) within the LTE data bearer.
It offers superior call quality, improved coverage and connectivity, better battery life, faster data, and the ability to work with Wi-Fi. It is supported by major worldwide cellular operators and some MVNOs.
Prior to VoLTE, 4G was primarily used for internet surfing, and phone calls would automatically switch to 3G or 2G networks. This resulted in a delay before the recipient’s phone would ring. With VoLTE, this delay is eliminated.
To make VoLTE calls, certain conditions must be fulfilled, such as having a 4G/LTE-compatible phone, being within the range of a 4G/LTE network, having an operator and subscription that support VoLTE, running the latest software on your device, and having VoLTE activated in your device’s settings.
What is 4G/LTE
4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) is a global for 4G wireless transmission data, designed for lower latency and increased bandwidth. It was introduced in 2008 and is a significant advancement from the previous 3G networks.
It combines “4G,” the fourth generation of mobile technology, and “LTE,” which describes the specific type of 4G that delivers the fastest mobile internet experience.
While 5G is being developed, it is expected that 4G LTE will continue alongside 5G, with 5G being rolled out incrementally.
4G/LTE is a global success, with 6.6 billion subscriptions and 66% of mobile users worldwide using 4G LTE in January 2022.
The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) is in charge of defining and maintaining LTE high-speed wireless technology.
Comparison of VoLTE vs 4G/LTE
The main differences between VoLTE and 4G are as follows:
4G (Fourth Generation) is a mobile network technology that provides high-speed data transfer, while VoLTE (Voice over LTE) is an add-on feature of 4G that allows voice calls to be transmitted over the LTE network.
2. Voice Quality:
VoLTE offers better call quality compared to traditional 4G. It provides HD voice calls with clearer audio and reduced background noise.
3. Call Setup Time:
VoLTE has a faster call setup time compared to 4G. Calls are established within a few seconds in VoLTE, whereas 4G may require more time due to network switching.
4. Call Reliability:
While VoLTE has a better call setup time, it is more prone to call drops and call failures compared to 4G. This is due to the limited coverage area and network issues specific to VoLTE providers.
5. Network Architecture:
4G uses a network architecture that includes circuit switched and packet switched networks, whereas VoLTE operates only on a packet-switched network. As mentioned before, VoLTE transmits voice over data packets (using LTE), similar to how VoIP works.
6. Battery Efficiency:
VoLTE is more battery efficient than 4G. As VoLTE does not require a shift to 2G or 3G networks for calling, it reduces battery consumption.
7. Frequency Bands:
4G operates on various frequency bands that enable faster data transfer, while VoLTE primarily utilizes the frequency bands allocated specifically for voice calls. This allows for dedicated bandwidth for voice traffic.
8. Multimedia Features:
VoLTE supports enhancements in multimedia features such as simultaneous voice and data transmission, enabling users to browse the internet, use apps, or access other data services during a call.
4G offers wider international roaming coverage compared to VoLTE. While 4G can seamlessly roam across different networks in different countries, VoLTE roaming is limited and dependent on agreements between network operators.
Not all smartphones and mobile devices support VoLTE. Older devices may not be compatible with VoLTE technology and rely on traditional 2G or 3G networks for voice calls. In contrast, any device that supports 4G connectivity can access high-speed data services.
11. Network Requirements:
VoLTE requires a strong LTE network with extensive coverage to provide high-quality voice calls. In contrast, 4G networks can function in more diverse coverage conditions, including rural or areas with weaker network signals.
VoLTE services may sometimes incur additional charges depending on the mobile operator, while 4G data usage is generally covered under normal data plans.
Overall, VoLTE focuses on improving voice call quality and reducing call setup time, while 4G primarily provides high-speed data transfer and better compatibility and coverage.
Which USA Mobile Carriers Support VoLTE
All major U.S. carriers (AT&T Mobility, Verizon, and T-Mobile US) have enabled VoLTE (Voice over LTE) on their networks. This means that they support VoLTE technology for making voice calls over their LTE networks.
Moreover, there are over 50 virtual operators (MVNO) that use the top three networks to provide service. It can be inferred that some of these virtual operators may also support VoLTE as well.