Why Are VoIP And VoLTE So Hyped?

For the better part of a century, most phones operated under a public switched telephone network (PSTN). This involved a myriad of copper wires that extended all around the world to deliver voice calls for millions of people. The switches were handled manually by people known as “switchboard operators,” connecting one individual’s call to another’s phone. This was decisively disadvantageous for the latter half of the 20th century, and the ladies operating in these centers were eventually replaced by electronic switches that could handle the insanely heavy traffic of that time without being overwhelmed. In the early 2000s the Internet era emerged, and phone companies have been looking to make use of this infrastructure to handle calls rather than sticking to the copper PSTN setup that has lived for over a hundred years.

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In the 90s, if you were using a 56k dial-up connection and tried to call someone using it (some people actually did that), you would quickly learn that “Voice over IP (VoIP)” just wasn’t ready to come out yet. There would be unpredictable interruptions during the call, especially if you were browsing the Web at the same time. Using a landline telephone connected to the telephone company’s network was far superior.

Fast-forward to 2015, and there are clear signs that the Internet is just going to get faster, and line connections are continuing to cheapen. In an era where bandwidth is abundant, and there are no signs of it slowing down at any point in the foreseeable future, a VoIP call actually sounds like a better option, especially when the Internet is far more stable at this point than it was in its infancy. The difference between telephone networks and the internet is mainly¬†“scalability.”

While voice quality could technically increase, this isn’t the primary goal with implementing VoIP. Most companies that are thinking about the switch simply feel that it would be less expensive to maintain one single infrastructure (a fiber-optic or copper internet backbone) rather than constantly maintaining two of them. This would obviously pave the way for cheaper services and lower (or even non-existent) international rates as more countries hop on the bandwagon. The advantages are clear for both the customer and the provider.

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If you’re reading this on a mobile phone, you’re probably using an HSDPA or 4G connection, which is faster than the original GSM standard. Like in the case of VoIP, cellular networks may not have been ready in the late 90s to deliver both voice and data at the same time. However, with the emergence of 4G LTE technology, a greater number of cellular carriers are looking into the possibility of merging both and reducing the burden in maintenance.

“Voice over LTE (VoLTE)” carries the same exact advantages over the status quo in cellular networks as VoIP carries over PSTN, save for one very important difference. In VoLTE’s world, there exists one thing that guarantees that voice takes precedence over data during a call: quality of service (QoS). Instead of sending packets and hoping for the best, VoLTE specifically places a strong emphasis on ensuring that voice data is sent out in a reliable manner and doesn’t get interrupted by other background data operations.

The reason why this works is because it’s not as important for callers to use their phones for other purposes while they are speaking. That is in direct contrast to the VoIP model in which callers still wish to download and upload files on their computers while they are on the phone (in the VoIP world, these are two separate devices one can use simultaneously).

What do you think? Should phone networks switch to VoIP/VoLTE? Or should they continue to maintain two different lines? Tell us in a comment!