What Is VoLTE and How Does HD Calling Work ith It?

VoLTE uses a 4G network for voice calling

Voice over Long-Term Evolution uses the 4G LTE network to provide high-definition voice calling. Most of the major wireless cellular providers in the United States support the VoLTE standard.

VoLTE is considered part of a suite of rich communications services that may include video calling, instant messaging, presence (allowing pre-approved contacts to see your availability for a chat session or call), file transfers, real-time language translation, and video voicemail.

VoLTE Offers Clearer Voice Calls

VoLTE offers high-quality voice calls with minimal background noise. VoLTE calls are also generally considered more reliable and stable since they are less prone to suddenly disconnecting or experiencing glitches.

Smartphone Apps for Quilters
E+ Getty Images

VoLTE uses the LTE standard for network transmissions over the 4G wireless network, which allows cellular providers to more efficiently deliver communications services to their customers—whether that's phone calls, video calls, text messages, or anything else. With VoLTE, voice just becomes another form of data that travels over the cellular broadband network. This is a step up from the older method of managing smartphone communications, in which voice and data traveled over separate networks and cellular providers could not ensure as high a quality of service for the voice communications.

Because VoLTE lives on the same network as other data communications, both voice and data connections work while you're on a voice call.

When cell phones debuted in the early 1980s, they used voice-specific encoding schemes to move data between the device and a tower. Data connections didn't come standard until the early 2000s. The reason that VoLTE delivers better call quality is a function of the very old, less sophisticated cellular-voice protocols relative to the newer cellular-data protocols.

What You Need to Use VoLTE

To take advantage of VoLTE, both you and the person you're speaking with must use a relatively recent smartphone. On the iPhone side, any model from the iPhone 6 or 6S or above natively supports VoLTE calling. For Android devices, models from the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the LG G2 to more recent releases support it.

Your carrier must offer, and you must subscribe to, a VoLTE or HD Calling service. Most carriers now offer them either as a part of a base contract or as a bolt-on product for a small additional monthly fee.

In addition to having a current smartphone and compatible SIM card, everyone joining the call must be located in an area that offers VoLTE coverage. Older cellular networks like 3G cannot support VoLTE.

How to Activate VoLTE Service

Here's the setting to enable VoLTE calling on iOS.

Depending on how your carrier manages VoLTE (some automatically enable it while others don't), you may also need to activate a specific setting on your smartphone to take advantage of VoLTE calling. On an iPhone, visit Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Options > Enable LTE. For Android, the steps for enabling VoLTE vary depending on the device you have. To get specific step-by-step instructions on activating LTE on your Android device, contact your carrier.

You don't actually need a separate app or special software to place a VoLTE call if you've met the base requirements.

VoLTE Interoperability

Full VoLTE interoperability isn't standard among carriers, so they don't all connect to one another's VoLTE services just yet. As a result, you may have difficulty establishing a VoLTE call with someone who uses a VoLTE service that is not yet compatible with your carrier's. For this same reason, you may also encounter challenges using VoLTE while traveling abroad.