Verizon to launch video calling and HD Voice this year

Will offer new smartphones, and updates to some existing ones to add support for Voice over LTE

Verizon Wireless has reiterated plans to offer Voice over LTE (VoLTE) "later this year" nationwide to offer users both High Definition Voice and video calling options.

In a statement posted yesterday, Verizon promised a "robust line-up of VoLTE-enabled smartphones when the service launches."

A spokeswoman didn't offer specific dates for the VoLTE service launch, or names of new devices.

In addition to new smartphones that support VoLTE, Verizon said some select handsets already in use will receive a software update to support VoLTE.

To send or receive HD Voice and video calls over VoLTE, the parties at each end need VoLTE-ready devices and must be calling in an area where VoLTE is available.

Verizon is using AMR (Adaptive Multi-Rate) wideband technology for the HD Voice feature. The patented technology was created by Nokia and first adopted in the U.S. for T-Mobile's nationwide network in January 2013.

Verizon called AMR-wideband an "industry norm" which allows for future possible interoperability with other carriers using the standard. "At rollout, HD Voice will just be on our network," spokeswoman Debra Lewis said.

The entire adjustment to VoLTE has been years in coming for all the U.S. carriers. AT&T said last week it will begin offering HD Voice with VoLTE in parts of four Midwest states starting Friday (May 23). AT&T didn't indicate whether video calling will be a part of its VoLTE offer.

VoLTE is arriving as U.S. carriers transition voice calling to what so far have been data-only LTE networks. Verizon is transitioning voice calling from its 3G CDMA network. Both T-Mobile and Sprint offer HD Voice but not over their emerging LTE networks, although T-Mobile said it plans to offer VoLTE soon.

The video calling capability that Verizon envisions should be similar to video calling apps like FaceTime from Apple and Skype.

Verizon and other carriers have been introducing apps and technologies in new smartphones under their own brands for years, in hopes of limiting the loss of revenues to over-the-top (OTT) vendors.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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