Ericsson, Qualcomm and China Unicom claimed to have demonstrated the first real-world use cases for VoLTE (Voice over LTE) on a low-power wide-area LTE-M network, which they said opens the door to a new range of IoT applications.
The trio jointly showcased two safety-focused services during last week’s Mobile World Congress Shanghai using Ericsson IoT and VoLTE equipment, China Unicom’s radio spectrum, and IoT devices equipped with Qualcomm modems.
LTE-M is one of three emerging cellular technologies designed to support low-power IoT applications (the other two being NB-IoT and EC-GSM-IoT) such as smart meter tracking and smart sensors. The three standardised technologies are battling unlicensed, proprietary offerings from the likes of Sigfox and LoRa.
Ericsson explained adding VoLTE to LTE-M will enable devices to make voice calls.
The companies demonstrated a fire alarm system capable of informing first responders and connecting them to the person who activated the alarm (allowing the alerter to describe the situation to rescuers and get immediate guidance), and a GPS tracking feature with similar emergency service connectivity benefits.
With China’s big three operators last week confirming they are deploying NB-IoT, China Unicom’s VoLTE demo efforts suggest the operator is hedging its bets in terms of its IoT technology strategy.
Verizon completes callChina Unicom’s demonstrations also represent a potential broadening of the geographical reach of LTE-M, which to-date has proved more popular in the US than other global markets.
At the same time as the MWC Shanghai trials, US number one operator Verizon separately announced the completion of its first VoLTE call on LTE-M networks, also in conjunction with Ericsson and Qualcomm.
Rosemary McNally, VP for corporate technology at Verizon, said the trial is a natural evolution of IoT and paves the way “for new types of IoT applications and services.”
Eric Parsons, head of product line 4G and RAN mobile broadband at Ericsson, stated: “The IoT space offers new revenue-generating services for operators and adding voice capabilities to IoT devices takes use cases such as alarm panels and medical alert systems to the next level of functionality.”
Verizon completed a nationwide roll-out of its LTE-M network in March, with rival AT&T following in May.Sprint also plans to deploy the technology, while T-Mobile US will opt for NB-IoT.
Outside the US, Orange and KPN are flying the flag for LTE-M technology in Europe, where NB-IoT typically dominates the low-power IoT scene.