GSM: VoNR progresses, but requires 5G SA core network

 5G non-standalone (5G NSA) networks, voice services were enabled by continued use of LTE and 2G/3G infrastructures, but 5G standalone networks (5G SA) – both public and private –  require a new approach. They need to be able to carry QoS-guaranteed voice services (as opposed to over-the-top voice applications), but there is no legacy infrastructure to fall back on.

Voice over New Radio (VoNR) [1.] is designed to meet this challenge. VoNR is also expected to bring improvements in latency, call quality and improved integration with applications and services using 5G data at the same time. VoNR is anticipated to drive innovation in conferencing, augmented and virtual reality applications over 5G networks.

Note 1.  5G NR is the essence of standardized 5G RAN as per 3GPP Release 15, 16 and ITU-R M2150 recommendation for 5G RIT/SRIT.  However, VoNR requires a 5G SA core network rather than using LTE signaling and core (EPC).

Additionally, there needs to be a mechanism for devices to use to LTE, or 2G/3G voice networks when outside the coverage of a 5G standalone network. EPS Fallback (EPS-FB) is an early introduction step to VoNR until sufficient NR low-band or low mid-band coverage has been deployed.

The Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) announced that 42 devices and 40 5G chipsets from four vendors have been announced supporting Voice over New Radio (VoNR) technology. This includes five discrete modems and 35 mobile processors/platforms. Of these, 36 are known to be commercially available, including four discrete modems and 32 mobile processors and platforms. Chipsets are commercially available from Mediatek, Qualcomm, Samsung and Unisoc.

In the GSA’s latest VoNR Market Report, the industry group found that numerous network operators are heavily investing in the new voice technology for their 5G standalone networks. To date, GSA has catalogued 16 operators publicly announced as investing in VoNR in some way or another. Of those, eight are evaluating/testing/trialing, three are understood to be planning to deploy, three
are deploying the technology, one has soft launched VoNR services and one is offering limited VoNR as part of a market trial of its new 5G SA network.

This past June, Deutsche Telekom (DT) and partners announced the successful completion of the world’s first 5G Voice over New Radio (VoNR) call in an end to end multi-vendor environment.  T-Mobile, which is majority owned by DT, is also pursuing VoNR as per this article.

References:

GSA Market Report: Global Progress to Voice over New Radio (VoNR) – October 2021

https://www.telecompaper.com/news/gsa-says-42-devices-support-vonr-16-operators-testing-5g-voice–1400895

https://www.telekom.com/en/media/media-information/archive/world-first-end-to-end-multivendor-5g-voice-over-nr-call-628746

https://www.fiercewireless.com/tech/t-mobile-chases-voice-5g-verizon-at-t-not-so-much

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