In live demonstrations in Johannesburg last week Ericsson showed off its HSPA+ and LTE network capabilities with theoretical maximum speeds ranging between 21 Mbps and 100 Mbps.
The company’s 100 Mbps LTE demonstration stole the show, but at the same event Ericsson’s Praven Reddy made live voice and video calls which may be even more significant.
While LTE modems, like the Samsung 100 Mbps USB dongle used in the Ericsson demonstration, are already available commercially LTE phones are still a long way off. The delay in LTE phones is partly a result of previous disagreement on how voice will be carried over the all IP network associated with LTE.
A big step forward was the GSMA VoLTE (Voice over LTE) initiative which was officially launched in February this year and where the GSMA has adopted the work of the One Voice Initiative which essentially sets the standard for delivering voice over LTE.
At the event last week Ericsson made a voice call to a standard MTN number using VoLTE, with a Samsung LTE GT-B3710 Dongle, a laptop and Movial Communicator 7.4.27, client software for the voice call on the laptop. Reddy explains that the VoLTE was done using the solutions as prescribed by 3GPP – using VoIP with IMS/MMTEL Suite.
How it worked
The call made by Reddy was VoIP connected via LTE to an Ericsson eNode-B running Software L10A, all of which are commercially available from the company.
The eNode-B is connected to Ericsson Converged Packet Gateway (C-PGW) running 2010B, also a commercially available system.
“VoIP is connected to MMTEL Solution 3.0 running on IMS ICS 5.0 for the breakout of the call,” explains Reddy. “At the Media Gateway, the VoIP call is converted to a standard Circuit Switched Call. It is then internationally trunked and terminates on my handset which is an MTN SA number.”
It is encouraging to see an LTE voice call first hand in South Africa, but Reddy pointed out at the event that LTE ready handsets would only be commercially available at the end of 2010.
In South Africa the biggest challenge is however not the commercial availability of LTE handsets or dongles, but rather spectrum.
ICASA has recently announced its planned 2.6 GHz spectrum allocation process – which includes an auction process – but many industry players have raised concerns about the process which they said is flawed.
One particular concern is that the cellular operators planning 2.6 GHz LTE deployments are interested in paired channels while ICASA currently seems to favour unpaired spectrum blocks.
There have even been suggestions that ICASA should only award three 2×20 MHz paired channels to further LTE rollouts in South Africa, but some players may criticize such a decision as favoring established cellular operators and not encouraging competition through new WiMax entrants.
Voice over LTE << discussion