Way back in 2012, AT&T (News - Alert)'s CEO Randall Stephenson noted that AT&T would likely offer a data-only plan within the next two years, calling it “inevitable.” While Stephenson's timing wasn't exactly correct, there's no doubt that users are putting a lot more data through devices than even voice traffic. Considering that voice traffic can go through data now thanks to voice over LTE (News - Alert) (VoLTE) systems, this next generation communications technology could be a big seller. Juniper Research projects in a recent report that around three billion subscribers will use it by just 2021.
The new word from Juniper Research (News - Alert) suggests that the users of the next generation communications technology known as VoLTE will rise in a big way, going from 488 million in 2016 to three billion in 2021, a huge net rise by most any standard. With the sheer number of participants in this market—165 operators in 73 countries are currently putting more investment behind VoLTE operations—it's easy to see why. If there weren't a market for this system, it's almost inconceivable that these businesses would all be investing in it.
Moreover, the report notes, the VoLTE next generation communications technology will be so pervasive that users will even be growing at a faster rate than over-the-top (OTT) services like WhatsApp and WeChat, with VoLTE subscribers overtaking such app users for the first time ever. Throw in the fact that operators—and the customers therein—will be eager to use VoLTE as a means to have constant, high-quality voice contact capability and there's a clear advantage to VoLTE provision.
If at this point you're muttering at your screen “But what about 5G?,” then you're joining me in the muttering. The numbers, however, help make that point for us. We know that commercial releases of 5G are set to start up in 2020, a year before the Juniper Research study's end arrives. If the commercial launch of 5G is not widespread, or is geographically limited, or even both at once—maybe only places like New York and London get 5G access for about the first year or so—then it opens the path for VoLTE to be a very big deal, at least for a while. Under conditions like those, LTE itself will continue to be the top of the heap as recent new technologies like 4.5G Pro and 4.9G continue to rule the roost until 5G can become fully widespread.
The next generation communications market is a complicated animal, but based on what we've seen so far, VoLTE—and LTE in general—may have much more life in them than expected.
Edited by Alicia Young