Sprint (News - Alert) once again has set U.S. phone geeks a Twitter with reaffirming it is rolling out HD voice to select markets in late 2012 and the rest in 2013, but South Korea is really the innovator lately. I suspect people who haven't followed the space will be claiming Sprint invented mobile HD voice in the U.S. by the end of the year -- a claim which will cause a lot of laughter at Ericsson (News - Alert), France Telecom and other operators around the world.
Back in May, Sprint announced the HTC EVO 4G LTE and linked it to the company's rollout of HD voice service over its 3G CDMA network and LTE (News - Alert) networks. I asked Sprint PR why I should rush out and buy one of the new EVOs since it was dependent upon cellular network upgrades that weren't coming to my area (Washington D.C.) until who knows when. Never got an answer back. I'm betting the iPhone 5 will support LTE and HD voice. Not that Apple (News - Alert) would ever admit to it.
Given the latest non-news (Sprint rolling out HD voice on a limited basis this year, more in 2013 based on its nationwide network upgrade program per the initial announcements ), it is fascinating to see Korea IT Times reporting that SK Telecom will be introducing Voice over LTE (VoLTE) to South Korea on August 8, embedding the HD voice software with new Samsung Galaxy S III phones; existing Galaxy S III customers will get a firmware upgrade to support HD voice later this month. Earlier reports had SK Telecom introducing VoLTE in September. SK customers will pay the same rates per second (yes, second, not minute) for VoLTE as they currently do for 3G cell phones.
South Korea has always been an incubator for new wireless schemes, so it isn't surprising to see all three major national carriers pushing to roll out VoLTE by the end of the year and Advanced LTE networks in 2013. KT and LG UPlus said they will introduce VoLTE to Korea in October, with LG UPlus saying it will cover the whole country in its rollout. I'm waiting to see if KT and LG move up their deployment dates to September or hold to their original plans.
Meanwhile, there have been no updates out about MetroPCS or Verizon Wireless on their 2012 VoLTE pronouncements. MetroPCS had originally said it would roll out VoLTE in the first half of 2012, then later changed the date to the second half of 2012. Verizon is expected to do some limited VoLTE testing/rollouts by the end of the year, with nationwide coverage to come in 2013.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman