Verizon's next-gen voice service still planned for this year, will come with video calling

Verizon and AT&T, the two largest mobile operators in the US, have spent the last couple years in a race to deploy next-generation voice technology known as Voice over LTE (VoLTE). With its announcement last week, AT&T was the first to deploy the fast-speed VoIP network, but don't count Verizon out of the race quite just yet: executives explained to us today that it's still on track for nationwide deployment sometime this year.

Considering AT&T launched VoLTE last week, it appears that Verizon may be experiencing a few setbacks. (Of course, Verizon originally promised its network would be ready by 2012, so we'd argue that setbacks are nothing new for VoLTE deployment.) However, execs pointed out that its competitor's offering is currently limited to just a few markets and devices, whereas Verizon will launch VoLTE nationwide from the very beginning. Nationwide availability will be crucial to the network's success, as calls using the new tech can't fall back to CDMA when you leave LTE coverage.

Unfortunately, the company won't say specifically when this year we can expect the new network, but we were told that when it's ready, several devices will be VoLTE-capable either through purchase or an over-the-air update. Fortunately, Verizon confirmed that its network will be interoperable with any of its VoLTE-capable competitors -- since you'll only be able to enjoy richer call quality when both callers have compatible devices, this means the service won't be exclusive to in-network conversations.

The company also tells us that it will offer FaceTime-like video calling as soon as VoLTE launches, which means that you'll be able to activate the service directly from your phone's dialer, and you'll be able to easily switch back and forth between video and audio-only calls. Additionally, it'll also launch HD Voice by leveraging AMR-WB, a wide-band speech standard that's already used by T-Mobile for its high-def voice service.

[Image Credit: Getty]