What happens to 4G-VoLTE when 5G Grows Up?

Posted by Rob Schnetzer on Thu, Aug, 01, 2019 @ 10:08 AM

With the advent of 5G technology right around the corner, we’re now seeing phones start to utilize the networks for which AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile have laid the groundwork. Just like in the past, networks are going to take a few years to start seeing any widespread distribution, especially in the rural areas of the U.S. But what about the older 4th generation networks we rely upon? Is 5G going to make bandwidth more accessible? Or will it make coverage worse?In July 2018, Medium published an article titled, Verizon Just Made 3G and Many 4G LTE Phones Obsolete, so you have a reason to be concerned. But before you throw away your one year old phone, consider this:  according to Verizon the company has spent $125 billion on their 4G network, refining it to meet the needs of customers. With that large of an investment, it is unlikely that they would just drop coverage anytime soon. Typically, networks have been phased out gradually over time. For example, the third-generation cellular network 3G was started in 2001 and wasn’t completely shut down until 2018. That’s almost 17 years, and undoubtedly long after most users had switched from 3G to 4G LTE. The 4G LTE phones included in the phaseout were all produced before 2015 and none of them supported 4G VoLTE (Voice Over LongTerm Evolution) which is a newer, more secure form of the network that supports HD calls and simultaneous data and voice transmissions.

On the other hand, 5G had a very limited rollout starting in late 2018, mostly in larger cities from several different carriers. If it stays on track, the procession of 5G should be quicker than in the case of 4G, however Apple won’t even have a 5G iPhone until the second half of 2020. Chances are, you probably won’t see any drastic change over from 4G for a good while.

One of the other promising notes in this evolution is how some carriers like T-Mobile are handling the 5G rollout. Unlike AT&T and Verizon, T-Mobile is rolling out their 5G network on a split service model. Instead of using dedicated 5G transmission sites like AT&T and Verizon, which have limited range and won’t penetrate buildings or tree foliage, T-Mobile is using existing cell towers and adding antennas to roll the service out more quickly and with less expense. It also has greater range and more coverage because it is augmenting the 4G signal. However, it’s not all good news. The downside to this is the service won’t be as quick as AT&T’s or Verizon’s. 5G will reach more users, but 4G is still king when it comes to range and versatility.

At this time, it doesn’t appear that 4G will be going anywhere anytime soon. Nothing else has yet to touch its range or coverage indoors and out. If you’re considering upgrading your phone or concerned about 5G coverage with 4G quickly becoming a distant memory, 4G-VoLTE is going to be around for the foreseeable future.

Topics: Mobile