Rogers launches Voice Over LTE: What it is, and how it affects you

Daniel Bader

March 31, 2015 11:40am

Today, Rogers launches VoLTE — Voice over LTE — on one device, the LG G3 Vigor. The quiet announcement is shaded by the fact that LG’s latest smartphone is neither going to be a top seller, nor a particularly large marketing draw, but it is a momentous occasion for a few reasons.

Voice over LTE refers to a relatively new technology that carriers voice traffic over, you guessed it, an LTE network. When LTE networks were first brought to Canada in 2012, they were designed only to carry data traffic — referring to usage outside of making a call or sending a text message. Today, when a user is connected to an LTE network and makes a phone call, the user “drops down,” or switches, to a 3G network, which carries both voice and data traffic until the call ends, where, if the conditions are good enough, it returns to LTE.

lgg3vigor

Call quality is also improved: using wide-band codecs, similar to those in VoIP services like Skype, calls are clearer and less compressed.

Unlike technologies like HD Voice, which rely on callers being on the same network, VoLTE is cross-carrier compatible. But there are some stipulations before one can enjoy the benefits:

  • Users need a smartphone with VoLTE-compatible hardware
  • Users need a software update to support the technology
  • Users need to be in an area where the carrier has enabled VoLTE
  • Users need to be calling another customer that has a VoLTE-enabled phone with the stipulations above

As a result, VoLTE, like LTE was itself, will proliferate slowly, especially since it’s unclear whether Rogers and other carriers plan to update existing devices with support for the new calling features. Indeed, most Android devices that support LTE-Advanced will be able to connect over VoLTE with a software update, and the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which has proven to be incredibly popular with Canadians, also support it.

Rogers notes that VoLTE-compatible devices will still be able to make regular 3G calls when outside of areas covered by the new technology, and that VoLTE won’t work when in Rogers-EXT areas. VoLTE is not yet compatible with U.S. roaming packages, either.

Rogers indicates in its new FAQ that users will also be able to make video calls over VoLTE, through the same dialler app that is used to make calls. Think of it as an LTE-compatible version of FaceTime, but for all devices.

As for billing, Rogers has said that users won’t be charged extra for VoLTE, and all voice and video services over the network will be free until May 30th for Share Everything customers.

Rogers will likely charge VoLTE voice and video calls like they do regular 3G calls today, using minutes and not data. Even though VoLTE uses existing LTE networks, U.S. networks like Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, which have rolled out the new calling capabilities in many markets, do not count VoLTE calls towards a user’s monthly data allotment.

Because the VoLTE story in Canada is so new, things will likely change in the coming months as more devices get released with the technology. One thing is clear, though: Rogers will use the addition of VoLTE to promote Share Everything Plans; its FAQ claims that “Those not on a Share Everything Plan will be charged for Canadian long distance video calls,” while including local video calls for the time being.

What’s unclear is whether, after May 30th, Rogers will begin charging customers not on a Share Everything Plan for VoLTE voice calls, or if it will continue offering Share Everything customers free VoLTE service nationwide.

  • Felipe Ramirez 

    Just have a quick question, so when this comes to the iphone will FaceTime calls use minutes instead of data? I’m a little bit confused now.

    • jroc

      Facetime will continue to use data.

    • Felipe Ramirez 

      Thank you.

    • gmd

      FaceTime is data.

    • Geo Bern

      FaceTime is data but uses UDP. Volte uses UDP protocol too and my guess is that what is being counted as data is based on TCP protocol. This info must be verified.

  • purdy44

    Wow, I had no idea until now why the act of dialing and connecting on my phone lasted longer than most of my conversations! This is a totally enlightening moment; thanks guys!

  • Unorthodox

    Since I started using Rogers One Number on my Nexus 5, I’ve rarely reserved to voice calls again. The quality of VOIP call even over LTE is incomparably better, and taking the calls over GSM is like watching 480i after 1080p on a big screen.

    • Nadefrenzy

      Why have VoLTE when there’s voip with Rogers?

    • JTon

      You some sort of industry insider, or lived in south korea for a bit? How can you compare VOIP vs VoLTE when VoLTE is so brand spanking new.

    • Robobotic

      VoLTE will use the HD Voice codec, same as 3G voice calls can use now. I agree that it’s an amazingly different experience from AMR.

  • Juice Box

    This would be useful if it meant people didn’t need to a voice package on top of their data. Why aren’t we there yet, other than for carrier greed?

    • Adam Reinhardt

      You can buy a data plan only and stick it into a phone…

    • Juice Box

      On a contract-subsidized phone? Maybe things have changed but rogers never mentioned any options to me that didn’t include voice…

      I suppose I could probably just buy a $60-plus data package to meet the monthly spend requirement, ($65 for 6gigs) but my 3gigs for $30 is more than i need. No sense in spending twice as much per month just to get a device subsidy.

    • Adam Reinhardt

      ah no, not on a subsidized phone

    • ohhhna

      I don’t know about Rogers but a subsidized phone just means you pay for it over the life of your contract. That isn’t to say you can’t change the features of your contract at any time, like removing long distance or even removing voice.

    • MassDeduction

      The data-only plans suck if you get a device, but they’re awesome if you go BYOD, so you wouldn’t want a subsidized device on one of those anyway.

    • wes

      Fido data plan for iPad 35$ for 5 gbs. Stick Sim card into a phone. Call and text using data. Money saved per month goes into phone you want. No contract.

    • MassDeduction

      Heck, all Fido plans include incoming SMS, so you can even receive (not send) SMS on those data-only SIMs. 🙂

    • wes

      Yup! Pretty cool, but I wouldn’t give that number out, cause you’ll be charged per minute for every call.

    • Nadefrenzy

      What calling app do you recommend? Fongo?

    • wes

      I use Fongo, not the most reliable, but if you’re not calling a lot, it does the job. You can also keep your current number by porting your number to fongo. Fongo comes with caller ID and voicemail. You can receive text messages, but in order to reply to non fongo members, you have to pay for out going texts (1.50 per month american).

      You can also make out going calls using Whatsapp, Google Hangout Dialer, Facebook Messenger, but keep in mind that people won’t be able to see your number since it will be masked.

      Also, your simcard is associated with a telephone number, so you can actually make calls directly with your phone, but you will be charged for every minute.

    • Balls O’Steele

      Hangouts dialler is better quality than Fongo but hangouts doesn’t let you have a Canadian phone number. I use hangouts for outgoing calls and Fongo for incoming. Latency is about 300ms which is annoying but usable. I wish these voip apps could figure out how to get their data prioritized so latency would drop to <100ms. The carriers won't cooperate since 3G voice is a cash cow but the the crtc might force them to.

    • wes

      I don’t know if it makes a difference but over LTE it has been fine.

    • Balls O’Steele

      Even using hangouts dialler over Fido LTE there is 300ms latency. Still usable but not as good as 3G voice. Wish this could improve

    • Balls O’Steele

      Don’t know why I have 300ms voice latency on Fongo when my ookla speed test on my LTE shows 28ms ping. Maybe the extra latency is caused by the Fongo app?

    • Balls O’Steele

      Never buy a subsidized phone. If course Robellus won’t tell you that.

    • Robobotic

      VoLTE will be billed as voice minutes, not data.

  • Andrew English

    Finally they are starting to catch up to Korea who’s had this type of service 5+ years ago. 🙂

    • Curtis Metzger

      The Koreans only launched VoLTE services in mid 2012, so they are only 2 1/2 years out. Only a handful of carriers world wide have even begun to trial VoLTE networks.

  • Eluder

    Another first from Rogers, hopefully it’s implemented properly out the gate, unlike most of their products and services.

  • Andrew Guadagnolo

    Nexus 6 supports VoLTE. It is in the hidden carrier settings area- It is not enabled and looks like the baseband needs a carrier update to enable this feature. the real question is when they will push out the update..

  • fruvous

    “Rogers will use the addition of VoLTE to promote Share Everything Plans”

    Ahhh yes, more bribery to go to the rape your wallet plan.

  • Balls O’Steele

    I wonder if Fongo or hangouts dialler will be able to take advantage of the higher call quality of VoLTE?

    • Tony

      Those just use the data networks, they don’t use voice channels so there won’t be any difference.

    • Balls O’Steele

      But the latency of Fongo / hangouts dialler is poor. If VoLTE has the same latency, then it’s going to fail.

    • silver_arrow

      You’re already making the call over LTE in that case.

    • Balls O’Steele

      Why does 3G voice have lower latency than Fongo / hangouts dialler over LTE?

    • Robobotic

      Traditional circuit-switched networks are optimized on all layers for efficient, low-latency, voice service. Voice has higher priority than data traffic.

    • Balls O’Steele

      Will VoLTE get higher priority than data, even though it is data?

    • Robobotic

      Yes, VoLTE traffic will be kept logically separate from other data traffic and given higher priority.

  • Vito R.

    Why would I pay extra to make a Rogers VoLTE “long distance” video call when there are free alternatives (Skype/Facetime/etc) that likely have better quality?

    • xeronine992

      Obviously you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t). I suspect VoLTE video calling will be used by as many people who used the video calling feature Fido used to offer years and years ago. People will end up using a 3rd party alternative that uses their bucket of data instead.

      VoLTE on the other hand (the voice part) will be a welcome change. It’ll be nice to connect a call in 2 seconds vs how long it takes now

    • Vito R.

      Did you ever think it took a long time to connect a call prior to reading this post? I didn’t.

      It does not take 8-10 seconds to connect a call – I just tested it. Seems to take 2-3 seconds.

      Mind you, I’m using Bell. Maybe Rogers is just really, really slow?

    • xeronine992

      There is a radio contest I’ve been trying to get on, and when seconds count, a few seconds can make the difference.

      I did just test it though with Koodo and it took about 6 seconds.

    • MassDeduction

      It is generally less than 8 seconds, but generally more than 2-3. Back in the 2G-only days, it would connect almost immediately on Fido. 3G was the same. It was LTE that screwed it up. And yes, I did immediately notice the change when I got an LTE handset. 🙂

    • Robobotic

      The extra time is required for the core to move your phone from LTE to UMTS and for your phone to physically synchronize to the target UMTS cell.

  • McNucklefuts

    Cost and company liability aside, this is pretty cool!
    Do we know if it will be similar to the US where VoLTE will only work with another client also using VoLTE on the same carrier, or will it work for ALL calls?

    • xeronine992

      I’m trying to remember now, but I’m pretty sure when I used VoLTE on T-Mobile in the US it still worked as a regular call. If I’m not mistaken, you can call any number using VoLTE, however, for optimum clarity both parties should be using it.

    • MassDeduction

      Yes, I have never heard of VoLTE being limited to connecting to other VoLTE devices!

    • McNucklefuts

      I think my confusion came from some posts about AT&T and Verizon working together for network inter compatibility. I understood it as currently calls to other networks didn’t work over LTE but they must have meant the HD calling and video calling features specifically.

    • Robobotic

      They will not launch without full interoperability to legacy networks. Some features may only be available on VoLTE, but a basic voice connection will be available to any phone number in the world.

  • naviz

    Anybody try it with a Nexus 6?

    • Danny L

      Not working.

  • Danny L

    I can bet anything that voLTE along with services like extended coverage and roam like home and other nonsense being offered will be used to bribe me into moving to an overly priced not-so-share everything plan by Rogers. Of that’s the case I’ll run the 3G network to the ground and stick to my Skype calls.

  • deltatux

    I call bs on the 8 seconds for 3G networks. 8 seconds is an eternity just to connect to the tower to establish a call. Also, many phones already support “HD Voice” and all Canadian carriers already support it. When connecting my friends and I via our OnePlus One and on WIND, we instantly get AMR-WB and the audio is clean and crisp just as if I was using one of those nice high-end Cisco 8961 IP phones which are infinitely better than Skype/Hangouts. So VoLTE doesn’t have that much of an advantage other than using LTE while you’re in a call…

    • xeronine992

      Just tested again.. Almost 7 seconds to connect my call.

    • mola2alex

      I guess unless you are also using data at the same time

    • Robobotic

      The delay the article refers to is due to “circuit-switched fall-back,” where an LTE phone is moved to 3G for the duration of the call. Moving your phone’s registration can take 8 seconds. Also, VoLTE will use exactly the same AMR-WB codec.

  • JD

    And when are they gonna get to getting suretap working for everyone?

  • KiwiBri

    Is this an April fools?

  • 5tinkyPete

    This is all dandy but I hardly use voice calls any more. 90% of my communication is via email or chat apps.

  • Pingback: Rogers launches Voice Over LTE: What it is, and how it affects you | I Want Free Trial()