Telstra enables VoLTE across Cat-M1 IoT network

Telstra, Ericsson, and Qualcomm have enabled voice calls across the Cat-M1 network, with Telstra's IoT footprint now extending further than its 4G network.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Telstra has enabled voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) calls across its live Cat-M1 Internet of Things (IoT) network in partnership with Ericsson and Qualcomm, the telecommunications provider announced during the annual Telstra Vantage conference in Melbourne.

"Not only have we enabled [Cat-M1] in our network, if you imagine how we've got this device that's low cost and long battery life, as of around about today I'm announcing we've run our first voice call over one of these chips," Telstra director of Networks Mike Wright said on Wednesday afternoon.

"So with the first voice call with our partners Qualcomm, we now have a device that you could essentially enable anything anywhere and speak to it.

"If you think about the explosion we're seeing in voice-controlled homes ... the number of appliances and devices and things you could enable by putting voice into one of these low-cost chips blows the mind."

According to a blog post published on Wednesday afternoon by Wright, VoLTE across Cat-M1 IoT devices complements its embedded-SIM (eSIM) Telstra One Number offering announced last week.

"When standard voice calls are made on a VoLTE-enabled handset, VoLTE works by integrating the call into the 4G data stream; when it comes to IoT, adding VoLTE to Cat-M1 devices means those devices will have the ability to make voice calls to other devices, applications, and use cases which could benefit from voice," Wright wrote.

"With VoLTE over Cat-M1, this could provide opportunities to further leverage the battery-saving features of Cat-M1 for use in wearables where voice services are required."

The technology could be used in such instances as emergency calling panels in elevators, as well as day-to-day interactions with parking meters, information kiosks, whitegoods, and vehicles, Wright said.

Telstra's Cat-M1 network was switched on last month, with Wright on Wednesday announcing that it now covers more of Australia than its 4G network.

"As of just a few weeks ago, we completed the rollout of our Cat-M1 IoT network in all of our 4G base stations," he said.

"Our 4G network covers 1.4m square kilometres; with a feature called range extension, the system is able to actually send the bits repeated three times if they need to. We pushed the [Cat-M1] coverage range out from 1.4 to 3 million square kilometres.

"So we now have the coverage connectivity, the chipsets maturing, and, as we go up the stack, the capability of managing and activating the devices, the concept of an embedded SIM card ... combined with the enablement of management platforms and ultimately the data analytics platform that's going to unleash this new technology into the world."

In addition to Cat-M1, Wright added that Telstra also sees narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) as another "very important category".

The telco is thus aiming to establish an NB-IoT network within the next six months, according to a roadmap shown during Vantage, with Wright saying this will be enabled via network slicing.

"We've already built and got a network slice up and running for narrowband IoT, which we're just about to bring into the market," Wright said.

"There are two [IoT standards] due to different parts of the world's views on what's important. We don't care; we're going to support both."

Disclosure: Corinne Reichert travelled to Telstra Vantage in Melbourne as a guest of Telstra

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