Global voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) connections will grow to 3.33 billion by 2021, according to research by analyst firm Ovum.
There are currently 324 million VoLTE connections but Ovum believes that by 2021 the technology will have penetrated 53% of total cellular subscriptions worldwide.
The biggest factors driving the growth of VoLTE services will stem from operators reducing costs and moving services from voice to mobile broadband. They are also being incentivised by a growing number of compatible devices and successful VoLTE service launches by competitors.
“The better spectral efficiency of moving voice to VoLTE allows spectrum to be re-purposed for mobile broadband. Longer-term, there is the potential to shut down legacy 2G/3G networks and simplify the network,” said Craig Skinner, principal analyst at Ovum.
Looking outside the UK, while North America has the majority of VoLTE connections today, the Oceania, Eastern & Southern Asia region will overtake it by the end of 2016. This trend will continue to dominate until 2021, say Ovum.
“North America and the more developed countries within Asia and Western Europe will see close to or all LTE subscriptions being VoLTE enabled by 2021,” added Skinner. “This will drive uptake over the period at a CAGR rate of 59%.”
Ovum predicts that by the end of 2021, the countries with the highest number of VoLTE connections will be China (1.08 billion), the United States (379 million) and Japan (147 million).
VoLTE will also make up the vast majority of total subscriptions in certain advanced markets, with countries such as South Korea (99.4%), Japan (96.7%) and Norway (94.1%) predicted to have the highest penetration rates.
Paul Lambert, senior analyst at Ovum concludes: “Although there are direct benefits from VoLTE to end-users in terms of faster call set-up times, simultaneous voice-and-data sessions and improved voice quality, it is operators rather than consumers that are driving VoLTE uptake. In the future operators will be able to use VoLTE to offer new services, or enhance existing services with new features.”