To give you the best experience, this site uses cookies. By continuing to use our site, you agree to our use of cookies. To learn more, please read our privacy policy.
VoIP vs VoLTE: What You Need to Know
November 9th, 2016

VoIP vs VoLTE: What You Need to Know

Ian Linton

Technology is constantly changing and with it, communication is changing. From landlines to instant messaging, businesses continue to evolve to meet the needs of their employees and customers. VoIP (V...

Technology is constantly changing and with it, communication is changing. From landlines to instant messaging, businesses continue to evolve to meet the needs of their employees and customers. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and VoLTE (Voice over Long Term Evolution) are two solutions for delivering voice calls over mobile devices, such as smartphones or tablets.

So when comparing VoIP vs VoLTE many people wonder if they are the same. The easy answer is no.

The two technologies offer different levels of voice performance on mobile devices, but VoIP provides a wide range of other communications services on the same mobile platform. Some VoLTE providers may offer a limited range of additional services, but the technology is only suitable for mobile devices. VoIP, in contrast, is a widely used solution for office-based mobile and remote communications.

VoIP vs VoLTE

VoIP on mobile devices

VoIP is available on laptops, cell phones, smartphones and tablets with high-speed Internet access with the use of a software application known as a softphone. Users can make voice calls on 3G or 4G cellular networks.

If they have smartphones or higher specification laptops and tablets, they can use the full range of VoIP services, as if they were using an office phone. Services include text, instant messaging, chat, audio and video conferencing, as well as special features like Presence or Follow Me.

VoLTE on mobile

VoLTE, unlike VoIP, is a mobile-only technology for use on devices connected to 4G LTE cellular networks. To make voice calls, both caller and receiver must be connected to a 4G network.

4G LTE networks support both voice and data transmissions, and it is possible for users to access both services simultaneously. The high-speed capability of this technology also supports video calling between enabled devices on the same network, although availability depends on the service provider.

VoLTE has the capability to support rich communications services (RCS), such as file transfer and video voicemail, but deployment to date has been limited, and VoLTE remains essentially a technology for making mobile voice calls.

Call quality

Both VoIP and VoLTE offer HD (High definition) voice calls. VoLTE claims to offer superior voice quality because of its high-speed 4G Internet connection (currently a minimum of 100 megabits per second), which is faster than the 3G service generally used by VoIP.

However, to ensure call quality, VoLTE phones require QoS (Quality of Service) on the network. QoS aims to control jitter and prioritize voice over other traffic on the network. HD-call quality is only available if both caller and receiver have HD-enabled 4G devices.

VoIP calls travel over the Internet without a QoS feature, which means that some calls may be subject to loss of quality because of network congestion or slower access speeds. Some service providers overcome this problem by offering a private Internet service.

VoLTE also offers faster call connection times, although this may not be important to the majority of users.

Call coverage

Mobile VoIP users can access their service over 3G or 4G networks. VoLTE is only available on 4G LTE networks.

VoIP users on 3G networks enjoy broad national and international coverage because the majority of carriers and service providers offer this service. VoLTE users can only use their phones in areas where 4G coverage is available.

Currently, 4G service is not available in all parts of the US, or from all carriers. 4G services delivered by different carriers may not be compatible, which may further limit the use of VoLTE services.

In an analysis of the VoLTE market at the end of 2015, Wall Street research firm Zacks found that the three leading US players in the sector were still in early stage growth. AT&T had rolled out the service to 30 states; Verizon recorded 3 billion minutes of VoLTE calls in April 2015, and T-Mobile reported that roughly one-third of its voice calls were made on VoLTE.

Analysts commented that until all carriers make the service available, growth will be limited by the requirement that both parties on a VoLTE call must have a compatible 4G connection.

In addition, VoLTE users traveling between zones where 4G availability varies may lose service if 4G is not available. VoIP users connected to 4G can revert to 3G if they move into an area with no 4G coverage. That makes VoIP more flexible while carriers are still building out their 4G networks.

Mobile calling in the office

The availability of voice calling and wider communications services on mobile devices have led many companies to give up fixed line desk phones and instead use mobiles as their main communication tool in the office, as well as on the move. For start-ups and small businesses, the cost savings and increased flexibility can be significant.

Both VoIP and VoLTE provide coverage for mobile devices used in the office. VoLTE claims to offer WiFi users superior indoor coverage in some areas, but otherwise, performance is similar.

Telephony or multi-channel communications

Perhaps the greatest difference between VoIP and VoLTE is their level of support for other forms of communication. Critics point out that VoLTE is simply following the well-trodden traditional path of voice telephony. VoIP, in contrast, supports a much wider range of communication tools.

This is important from both a user and customer perspective. Users get a much wider choice of tools to meet different needs. They can send texts, emails or instant messages when a two-way call is not essential. And because they can join or set up different types of conferences, they can participate fully in collaborative projects.

Customers now prefer to contact companies via the channel of their choice. Voice is not always their first choice. They might prefer online chat or a video conference to discuss a more complex subject. If they want to place an order or change a delivery date, an email or text is usually sufficient.

This move away from voice is supported by statistics that show a fall of 6.2 percent in the number of mobile voice calls in the US between 2013 and 2014, according to the CTIA – The Wireless Association.

Given the increasing adoption and preference for multi-channel communications, VoIP is in a stronger position to meet these changes.

Mobile productivity

The ability to use multi-channel communications and access a full range of office services on the move helps boost mobile productivity, particularly for field-based workers such as sales representatives or service engineers. And it also gives businesses the opportunity to offer flexible working arrangements to employees who prefer to work from home or other remote locations.

VoIP users have the edge because they can use a full suite of services, including Presence, which lets them quickly find colleagues available for a call or a conference, and Follow Me, which rings all of a user’s devices simultaneously to make contact quicker and easier. Users can also draw on VoIP’s ability to integrate with other business applications such as CRM (customer relationship management) systems or calendars.

VoLTE users are restricted to voice calls, and they can only reach other 4G users, making any form of collaboration difficult. They do not have universal access to the other services that VoIP offers, although some providers or carriers may offer a limited range of non-voice services.

Innovation

VoLTE has the potential to innovate by using the services of the IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) platform. IMS can deliver a convergence of access systems and the convergence of voice and IP services over a single network subsystem.

But, to-date, carriers have not taken full advantage of this solution, and any innovations have been limited. The focus remains on voice, which is not an innovative technology.

VoIP is a more open system, and it allows developers to create new apps and new integrated solutions for office, mobile and call center communications. WebRTC (Web real-time communications), for example, is opening new opportunities for VoIP. It lets companies deploy VoIP communications directly from their web browsers and can give websites with VoIP capability.

Some IP equipment manufacturers are building texting capability into IP desk phones to give office-based users access to one of the most popular communication channels without changing devices.

Innovations like these are opening new communication opportunities for business and improving convenience for customers. So it’s essential to work with a platform that supports innovation.

The long game

Long-term growth for VoLTE depends on increased deployments by carriers and greater interoperability between different services. That will increase the number of calls VoLTE users can make to other VoLTE-enabled users. However, with voice calling as its primary focus, VoLTE may find it hard to meet the growing demand for multichannel solutions and innovative forms of communication.

VoIP already offers this wider communications capability. As the established voice component for Unified Communication solutions, it has a strong position in the enterprise market. And its compatibility with WebRTC will extend its versatility and application even further.

If the technology decision were based solely on voice capability, then VoLTE has a long-term future. But that is too narrow a view of the modern communications environment, and VoLTE must evolve down a broader path if it wants to part of the modern communications landscape.


Related Articles

The Business Phone Buying Guide