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18 December 2019

Ericsson and MediaTek test voice for 5G Standalone networks

Ericsson has carried out an interoperability test with MediaTek, demonstrating 5G voice over New Radio (VoNR).

Vendors and operators are keen to avoid the mistakes of early 4G, when the continuing need to support cellular voice, but in an IP not circuit-switched network, was almost forgotten. Voice over LTE (VoLTE), which requires an IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) was slow and difficult to deploy, and its standardization was almost an afterthought, so operators had to rely on falling back to circuit-switched 2G or 3G networks for many years (many still do).

In current 5G Non-Standalone deployments, voice is still enabled by VoLTE and the 4G core but when operators move to Standalone and a 5G core, they will need to support VoNR if they still want to offer native voice services. As an interim step they can rely on 5G for data, and use 4G with Evolved Packet System (EPS) Fallback for voice. MediaTek and Ericsson previously partnered to test EPS Fallback in scenarios where 5G Standalone was unavailable.

Voice calls are often included free in contract bundles, and are under huge pressure from over-the-top alternatives, and from the declining use of voice calls, yet they remain an important tick-box item for many users.

Voice calling is still “essential” for mobile users, said Hannes Ekström, head of product line 5G RAN at Ericsson, in a statement. “So, 5G phones are expected to provide all the capabilities of 4G phones in addition to new 5G features and services. Ensuring continued voice services on 5G devices must therefore be addressed properly.”

Ericsson and MediaTek performed their industry first test in the Ericsson Lab in Kista, Sweden. It used an end-to-end solution from Ericsson and MediaTek’s commercial Dimensity 1000 chipset, deployed in the 3.5 GHz TDD spectrum.