Sprint's roaming agreement with T-Mobile doesn't impact VoLTE rollout

T-Mobile’s agreement to provide Sprint with LTE roaming for four years does not appear to be slowing Sprint down in its VoLTE rollout.

“We remain on track to begin commercial deployment of VoLTE starting this fall,” a Sprint spokesperson told FierceWirelessTech.

For more than a year, Sprint has been testing VoLTE and preseeding its customer base with VoLTE-capable devices. “Our network today offers a great HD Voice experience on a very efficient 1x platform, and our goal with VoLTE is to match this same high-quality experience that our customers have today,” the spokesperson added.

RELATED: Sprint expects to deploy VoLTE starting this fall

Included in their presentation drumming up support of their merger, T-Mobile said it would provide Sprint with a roaming agreement for four years, and that agreement will survive in the event the transaction is terminated. Speculation then immediately centered on whether Sprint would suspend its VoLTE investment since it could then rely on T-Mobile’s VoLTE, but the spokesperson’s answer squashes that idea.

Plus, T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray clarified during T-Mobile's first-quarter earnings call on Tuesday that the roaming agreement is really about data. Sprint's customers' phones in the areas covered by the roaming agreement could do VoIP but not VoLTE at this point, he said. Sprint has underlying voice calling available through CDMA.

“The issue that we’re trying to address and work together on is LTE data coverage,” Ray said, referring to the roaming agreement.

T-Mobile is proud of its work on VoLTE, laying claim to being the first in the U.S. to deploy VoLTE and having VoLTE on 100% of its LTE network. As of earlier this year, 80% of all voice at T-Mobile was carried over VoLTE.  

RELATED: T-Mobile deploys Ericsson data analytics to measure voice quality, detect VoLTE issues

At Mobile World Congress 2018 in February, it was revealed that T-Mobile was part of the Ericsson Expert Analytics solution announcement. The solution is used to gain insights into how customers are experiencing a range of services, including VoLTE, video calling over LTE, rich communication services and mobile broadband, enabling T-Mobile to resolve call-related issues in real time.

VoLTE offers as much as three times more voice and data capacity than 3G technologies, enabling higher-quality connections. According to the GSA, 217 operators are investing in VoLTE in 102 countries, including 134 operators with commercially launched VoLTE-HD voice service in 65 countries.

Verizon has fully deployed VoLTE over its network, so 100% of its LTE sites have the capability, equating to its entire footprint. Rival AT&T touted a milestone in 2015 when its VoLTE reached more than 27 million subscribers; it took a market-by-market approach to rolling it out.

In 2016, Verizon and AT&T started offering interoperable VoLTE to some customers, meaning customers on both networks could place VoLTE calls with each other.