HD voice calls will be Korea norm by November

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HD voice calls will be Korea norm by November

Smartphone users will enjoy top-quality voice calls even with friends who use different telecom carriers starting in August.

When the service is in full swing by November, Korea will be the first country in the world offering voice over long-term evolution (VoLTE) services among all LTE customers regardless of the carriers they use.

Owners of 174 LTE smartphone models with the VoLTE function released after July 2012 will be able to use the service at no extra charge starting November.

According to the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning on Wednesday, the government will begin trial services at the end of this month and introduce the service at the Mobile World Congress Shanghai 2015 scheduled for next month. Commercialization in Korea begins in August and all customers will be covered by November.

Until now, smartphone users enjoyed LTE voice calls - also known as high-definition (HD) voice or audio - only when talking with friends using the same carrier. The quality of voice calls automatically degenerated to 2G- or 3G-quality when talking with subscribers of other carriers.

With the integrated VoLTE service, voice call quality will be eight times better than 2G and 3G networks, and voice and video connections will take only 0.25 second, about 20 times faster than in 3G. It will allow smoother transitions between voice calls and video calls, and people can share photos and videos while making a voice call.

Since 2012, each of the nation’s three largest carriers - SK Telecom, KT and LG U+ - have offered high-definition voice among their own customers. It took three years of cooperation to integrate the three LTE networks to enable HD-quality calls among all users.

This network integration technology is a new global standard.

After Korea first launched the VoLTE service in 2012, 17 telecoms from 10 countries including the United States, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Denmark and Germany have offered the VoLTE service but only among their own customers.

Integrated VoLTE services are also expected to help telecoms and content creators with new business opportunities, the ICT Ministry said.

DaumKakao has announced VideoCall, a new video call service, and KakaoTV, a video streaming service available in KakaoTalk chat rooms. Customers will be able to enjoy these services, spending more on data and eventually bringing the telecoms more profit.

Telecoms can introduce new multimedia and integrated services like live-translation services that interpret foreign languages while talking via VoLTE, the government said.

The three carriers are already preparing various services using VoLTE technology.

SK Telecom said it will release a smart call receiver service by the end of this year that enables people to receive calls from other smart devices via applications like KakaoTalk.

BY KIM JI-YOON, PARK SU-RYON [kim.jiyoon@joongang.co.kr]
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