Editorial by Andrew Kameka on Friday November 30, 2012.
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Metrico Wireless recently conducted tests on Voice over LTE (VoLTE) calls to determine how the new calling protocol affects battery life, but the company's findings might not paint a full picture. GigaOM was first to highlight that Metrico's tests on MetroPCS's network found that VoLTE calls can drastically cut battery life because of higher power consumption. The findings state that a 10 minute call on CDMA networks use 680 mW power; a 10-minute VoLTE call uses 1,358 mW.
VoLTE excites many because it will greatly improve call quality compared to existing options, but a drastic increase in power stats raises concerns about how VoLTE might affect battery life. However, those concerns may be a bit premature. Metrico tested only one device in one market on one carrier. The incredibly sample size may not be an accurate picture of VoLTE technology because it's unclear how efficient MetroPCS designed its network or if there are factors unique to its set-up that affect the validity of the results. One must ask what kind of hardware does MetroPCS use? How strong is the signal? Is there an issue with the LG Connect, the phone MetroPCS uses for VoLTE?
I'm not saying that Metrico is incorrect - VoLTE will negatively impact battery life in the early stages of its deployment - but the findings may be an exaggeration of what to expect when VoLTE arrives, not a preview of a dramatic battery decline destined to come. The HTC Thunderbolt had dreadful battery life when it debuted, but subsequent LTE phones proved that more efficient hardware and network designs can dramatically improve battery life. Until another company like AT&T or Verizon implements a VoLTE set-up, which is not expected until 2014, it's far too early to make any assumptions about VoLTE's impact on battery life.
Voice over LTE will not be bad for battery life in the long-term. The technology will actually be good for carriers because it will allow them to not have separate radios for voice and data services running at the same time, which is a current set-up that eats up a lot of power. Metrico's findings show that the VoLTE and LTE combination consumes less power than CDMA and LTE when using voice and data simultaneously.
The reason that 3G networks consume less energy now is because they have several years of use that has led to improvements and network optimizations. As component makers develop more efficient radios and carriers optimize their networks to better communicate with devices over the next year, VoLTE will not be a massive drain on battery life. The first wave of devices might not be the best representation of an emerging technology, but that's not reason enough to say that VoLTE itself will be a problem.
Andrew is MobileBurn.com's managing editor. He is based in Miami, Florida.