For all the advancements smartphones have made with high-speed data, audio fidelity, and advanced noise-cancellation, voice calls have been seriously stuck in the past. While our phones blast cellular data out at multiple megabits per second, voice has been constrained by its reliance on older standards – your $700 smartphone handles voice traffic in much the same way as a free-on-contract dumbphone. Progress has been slow to revamp voice, but the promise of voice over LTE – or VoLTE for short – has been looking like one of the most interesting options. This month, AT&T makes big progress in bringing VoLTE to the masses, announcing its start of VoLTE service in select markets.
AT&T’s VoLTE service, which it’s calling HD Voice, goes live in certain markets in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin on May 23. While it should bring higher-quality audio and reduce traffic on old GSM networks, it’s not without some big limitations. For instance, this doesn’t work if only one caller has VoLTE – both of you are going to need not just compatible hardware, but also both be in these few markets where the service is active, and both have VoLTE specifically enabled for your AT&T account. As a result, we imagine that actual use of HD Voice may be slow to catch on.
As far as compatible devices go, AT&T says that last year’s Galaxy S 4 mini (above) will be its inaugural VoLTE handset, but that others will follow. Don’t expect this to be Android-only, either, and we imagine we’ll be seeing VoLTE compatibility arriving for numerous devices (including existing ones), as well as across platforms.