MegaFon has claimed a first by launching commercial voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) services in Moscow, available initially only to users with a Sony Xperia X smartphone. VoLTE – marketed by the operator as ‘HD-voice 4G’ – can be activated at the subscriber’s request at no additional cost, regardless of their tariff plan, and MegaFon’s press release says that the all-IP voice service will cover its national 4G network ‘soon’. A ‘test’ version of VoLTE calling in Moscow has been available since 31 August 2015, whilst elsewhere voice calls on 4G smartphones rely on circuit switched fallback (CSFB) to MegaFon’s 2G/3G network (or alternatively, unmanaged internet-based over-the-top [OTT] mobile voice apps). The government and security forces in Russia have given permission to VoLTE development in phases, with the Ministry of Telecom & Mass Communications (Minsvyaz) earlier confirming that a decision came into force on 12 December 2015 under which telecoms operators are permitted to deploy nationwide IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) packet networks for public use, freeing cellcos to implement commercial VoLTE on a national basis.
MegaFon lists VoLTE’s advantages including:
• staying connected to the 4G network during voice calls – if both devices support VoLTE the connection setup takes less than two seconds
• multitasking benefits – e.g. transmission of high speed 4G data/web browsing and/or connecting multiple devices may continue during a VoLTE voice call
• the best available voice quality.
In a separate press release this week, MegaFon revealed that its LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) data speeds of up to 300Mbps (theoretical peak) are now available on the Apple iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus devices. It added that the LTE-A 300Mbps network currently covers roughly a quarter of Russia’s population, in and around the cities of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, Rostov-on-Don, Chelyabinsk, Chita, Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, Ufa, Tula, Omsk, Sochi, Novosibirsk, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Krasnoyarsk, Ivanovo, Yaroslavl, Lipetsk, Krasnodar, Perm and Yakutsk.