Verizon is announcing Tuesday that it is nearly ready to offer nationwide calling over its LTE network, but the reality is this is just the start of a long process.
Eventually, the addition of voice-over-LTE will allow for higher-quality calls, quicker connection and easy video chats. But because those features require both parties to be on Verizon, have a compatible phone and opt-in to LTE calling, very few such calls will be made initially.
While Verizon would not use this word, the nationwide launch taking place over the next few weeks is, in reality, a large-scale beta test for what will over a period of years become the default means of calling.
Verizon isn’t even saying which existing phones will get the necessary software upgrade to support VoLTE. As with LTE data support, though, expect it to become a standard capability on the vast majority of new devices arriving in the coming months.
When customers can find a match over LTE, they can make FaceTime-like video calls and HD Voice calling — that is to say, better-sounding calls. One big downside, though, is that if either caller leaves LTE service coverage, the call will drop.
Customers will be billed for voice minutes for their calls, while video use will also draw from a customer’s data plan.
At some unspecified point, VoLTE calling will become the default. Even further down the road — probably not until at least 2016 — Verizon will start selling phones that only support LTE. And while the initial service is limited to calling fellow Verizon members, lab work is under way to eventually let people call among different LTE networks.
“I’d say there is active lab-to-lab work that is happening today,” Verizon executive director Brian Higgins said in a briefing with reporters. “We have an interest in working with the other carriers, because the network effect is so powerful.”
Also on Tuesday, Verizon is announcing service for parts of Alaska, its first LTE-only market.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.