Given the ubiquity of instant messaging apps like WhatsApp and Line, you’d be forgiven for assuming that most phone conversations these days took the form of texting. But contrary to popular belief, good old-fashioned calling hasn’t quite gone the way of the dodo. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center study, 93 percent of smartphone owners ages 18-29 place voice or video calls at least once a week.
In light of that statistic, it’s not entirely surprising that quite a few mobile carriers are devoting attention to call quality. Among them, T-Mobile seems to be leading the charge: on Wednesday, the self-styled “un-carrier” announced the deployment of Enhanced Voice Services (EVS), a “next-gen” voice technology that it says will improve the fidelity and reliability of calls placed on its network.
T-Mobile, along with Verizon and AT&T, began transitioning from legacy circuit-switched calling tech to data-based Voice over LTE (VoLTE), or HD Voice, several years ago. That conferred benefits such as improved voice quality, Wi-Fi calling, and faster call setup times, but T-Mobile says EVS introduces even more. With EVS, call reliability should be improved in areas with weaker signals, it says, and audio should reach an even higher fidelity than HD Voice calls thanks to “a broader audio frequency range.” Better still, T-Mobile says the the benefits of EVS extend beyond its network — you’ll get improved quality on Wi-Fi in addition to T-Mobile’s LTE network, for example, and in calls with T-Mobile subscribers that lack an EVS-supported device.
EVS isn’t a T-Mobile technology, per say, but a product of a collaboration between mobile device makers, telecom technology firms, and engineers, It’s basically a derivation of VoLTE both simultaneously reduces the bandwidth needed for calls while improving overall service. “Envisioned use cases for enhanced voice service include improved [call quality], and high-quality multiparty-conference or audio-visual communication,” according to VoiceAge. “Even streaming voice and audio as well as offline voice and audio delivery are possible application scenarios.”
“EVS is yet another example of how America’s fastest LTE network is also the most advanced,” said T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray in a blog post. “Our shift to IP-powered voice and data services has led to a steady drumbeat of ground-breaking calling innovations from Wi-Fi Calling to Video Calling built right into your phone’s native dialer.”
If there’s a downside to EVS, it’s slim compatibility: LG’s G5 is the only handset capable of taking advantage right now. But there’s hope: T-Mobile says Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and S7 edge will gain EVS through a software update this week, and says that it’s working on bringing enhanced calling to seven additional smartphones “by the end of this year.”
Ray said the adoption of EVS was a natural progression for T-Mobile, which has shown a steady uptick in VoLTE usage over the past several years. According to the carrier, 27 million of subscribers with VoLTE-enabled phones make 300 million calls a day, or more than half of all calls on the carrier’s network.