Both AT&T and Verizon Wireless hoped to deploy Voice over LTE (VoLTE) capabilities on their networks in 2013 after Verizon Wireless demo’ed the technology in early 2011. VoLTE promises to reduce (and eventually replace) the burdensome and costly reliance on circuit-switched networks that currently support voice calls. RCR Wireless dubbed VoLTE “one of the most highly anticipated network features to come along in recent years”. Unfortunately, technical problems prevented them both from deploying the new technology. Now, AT&T customers in Chicago and Minneapolis might be the first to experience the high-definition voice call feature….that is, if they have a VoLTE-compatible device. The delay of VoLTE being deployed over Tier 1 carrier’s networks begs the question…when will VoLTE be ready to handle public safety’s mission critical voice? The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) worked to define “Mission Critical Voice” in 2011 and is currently working to define public safety’s requirements for mission critical voice over broadband, yet many questions remain about when the NPSBN will offer voice capabilities, let alone “mission critical” voice capabilities that would allow agencies to transition off of their Land Mobile Radio (LMR) networks.
If public safety can leverage the work already being done on VoLTE capabilities from a commercial standpoint, while still ensuring that the technology meets their unique requirements, it will be a prime example of why public safety chose LTE as their next-generation communications technology and could serve as an example of how to take advantage of other groundbreaking technology capabilities.