While the 4G/LTE network is typically reserved for data, the ability to use it to carry voice traffic will mean that in the future, voice call quality will improve and will be a more efficient use of network resources.
Andries Delport, Vodacom’s Chief Technology Officer said: “VoLTE is a win-win technology – it’s good for the consumer and for Vodacom. The implementation of the VoLTE infrastructure is the first step towards commercial implementation that will ultimately result in faster call set up times, better voice quality and an overall improved quality of service. The migration of voice traffic to the 4G/LTE network will also have the benefit of freeing up capacity currently used to carry voice services.”
The date of the commercial launch of the service will be dependent on the availability of devices with compatible technology. Vodacom has said it is working with manufactures to ensure that local handsets are embedded with the necessary technology.
This development forms part of Vodacom’s on-going R9 billion network investment programme, which also includes the building of new base stations and expanding their fibre optic infrastructure.
Vodacom Group CEO, Shameel Joosub has however also said that Vodacom will need additional spectrum to make their 4G network live.
Speaking at the 2014 MyBroadband Conference in Midrand, he explained that the spectrum gained by Vodacom’s acquisition of Neotel will give them some breathing room, but will not be enough to solve their over spectrum needs.
The Vodacom – Neotel deal, valued at R7 billion, and is currently open for public comment as part of a competition commission process, with an expectation that it will be concluded by early 2015.
It has previously been speculated that the main focus of the acquisition was for Vodacom to gain Neotel’s spectrum, however Joosub contested this, saying that the overall focus was more in-line with a capital investment strategy.
“Fixed-line is a focus, and Neotel gives us fixed capability,” he said. “We can tuck Vodacom’s fixed-line business in, and keep it (Neotel) independent. Secondly, we will be acquiring a customer base – effectively capital investments; there’s also 16,000 kilometres of fibre. There is also spectrum…but even that doesn’t solve our spectrum needs, to be frank. But it does give us some breathing room.”