AT&T and Verizon have already said they're bringing Voice over LTE (VoLTE) support to their customers, and now they've committed to making the service cross-network compatible, too. Previously, each said their VoLTE service would work only with customers making calls to phone numbers on the same carrier network.
AT&T and Verizon to offer cross-network VoLTE calls in 2015
VoLTE lets voice calls use your phone's LTE data connection instead of limiting them to older 3G connections and promises better audio quality. Currently, LTE-capable phones such as the iPhone and Android-based phones, support LTE for wireless data connections, but fall back to 3G for voice calls.
Both AT&T and Verizon said they agreed to make their VoLTE services compatible in hopes of pushing more carriers into doing the same. Verizon CTO Tony Melone said, "Customers use their smartphones to connect with friends, family and colleagues across service providers and around the world. Interoperability among all VoLTE providers takes connectivity to the next level with HD quality voice and additional features that customers want."
AT&T CTO and President of AT&T Labs echoed that sentiment, saying, "Interoperability of VoLTE between wireless carriers is crucial to a positive customer experience."
The two companies have already begun rolling out VoLTE support in some of their coverage areas this year, but unless you're making a call to someone who also has a VoLTE-capable phone on the same network and is also in a VoLTE coverage area, you won't get to take advantage of the better audio quality. Right now, that means your chances of actually making a VoLTE call are fairly limited. With cross-carrier VoLTE support coming in 2015, however, that's going to change.
Neither cell service provider is offering any more details on their cross-carrier VoLTE rollout. Hopefully their announcement is the beginning of a trend and other carriers will follow suit.