T-Mobile shares official comment on situation with band 12 and unlocked phones

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Yesterday I pointed out a couple of reports wondering about T-Mobile, band 12, VoLTE, and why the Moto E (2015) had its band 12 support pulled. T-Mobile had no official comment at the time, but today the carrier came forward with an official statement.

Speaking to Fierce Wireless, T-Mobile said it requires phones using its band 12 coverage to support both E911 and VoLTE, which is does for its customers safety. “Every OEM has the option to support VoLTE and E911 or not. It’s their decision, though obviously, we hope that every OEM will choose to support these features and get certified on our network.”

T-Mobile spokesman Viet Nguyen went on to say that Magenta doesn’t have a policy of asking device makers to remove band 12 support from their phones. He went on to say that Motorola’s Moto E (2015) is the only device that had band 12 support removed because it did not complete T-Mobile’s full VoLTE and E911 certification process. As a result, Nguyen says that Motorola decided to pull band 12 support altogether.

“The Moto E does not support VoLTE and E911, though as soon as it does, we hope to be able to activate Band 12 on the Moto E again,” Nguyen said. “We’re very transparent with our partners that Band 12 certification must also come with support for VoLTE and E911.”

It’s disappointing that the Moto E (2015) had its band 12 support pulled, especially since that 700MHz coverage can offer extended coverage and better in-building coverage. It’s unclear exactly why Motorola chose to remove band 12 support rather than through T-Mobile’s certification process, but one unnamed device maker claims that it’s expensive and complex. It’s unclear if that’s truly the case, but it’s one possible explanation for Motorola’s decision.

So there’s T-Mobile’s stance on the whole matter involving band 12 and its removal from the Moto E (2015). Magenta is leaving it up to the manufacturers to put their band 12-capable phones through its certification process for VoLTE and E911, and T-Mo says that Motorola decided to pull the Moto E’s band 12 support rather than go through that process. It’d be interesting to see what would happen if an OEM didn’t want to remove band 12 support but also didn’t want to go through the certification process. Because that could have an adverse effect on that band 12 device’s E911 support, higher powers could get involved in the matter, and I’m betting that that’s a situation that most OEMs would like to avoid.

Source: Fierce Wireless

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  • besweeet

    The 2015 Moto G was originally advertised with band 12 for the GSM model, but it was removed from the tech specs page within a few days.

    • Mark_from_Davis

      Yup, I was going to post the same point. Not true to say that this only affects the Moto E, it was exactly the same with the Moto G, where they disabled Band 12 shortly after release with an OTA update.

      • steveb944

        So Moto is the only one confirmed to be doing this thus far.

        • Mark_from_Davis

          Yes, although the mention of another major provider possibly doing so is of concern. Hope it isn’t Alcatel, got an idol 3 after returning the Moto G…

        • steveb944

          Careful with the non Gorilla Glass screen. We broke ours yesterday with the first fall (case and Spigen cover).

          I’m going to do an RMA, I have to pay, and getting a tempered glass protector for the future.

        • Mark_from_Davis

          Yikes, sorry to hear that, thanks for the heads up :(

    • Aaron C

      The FCC filing CLEARLY states that band 12 was GRANTED for the Moto G, so T-Mobile is incorrect here. Motorola has not “abandoned” band 12. Maybe they’re confining their comments to the Moto E, but it certainly looks like Moto is at least leaning toward the possibility of getting band 12 certification for the Moto G 2nd gen at some point.

      Meanwhile, I sent the three I purchased back. What a shame. My family members were really looking forward to them.

      As it stands now, looks like we might be moving to Spring with their “free for DirecTV customers” offer. I’m getting a little tired of this, no matter who is causing it. I just want a pure Android experience for my family members at a ~$200 level. We’ll see if this is all cleared up in a year.

  • MHPhan

    Sorry if this is a dumb question. I have the Verizon S6e+ and on Samsung page, band 12 is supported. Does this mean it may not work with t-mobile band 12 if it’s not certified?

    • NexusPhan

      It means you won’t be able to dial 911 in an area of band 12 only coverage. T-Mobile won’t block it, though.

      • Aaron C

        Is that accurate? I thought 911 calls are supposed to be supported by any carrier regardless of subscription? If your phone doesn’t support VoLTE, but it supports band 12, wouldn’t you still “drop” into HSPA and then your phone would look to any available carrier to place the 911 call?

        • NexusPhan

          It is supposed to but it gets confused when its connected to the native LTE network. That’s a massive part of the problem here.

        • MHPhan

          So, correct me if I get this wrong. Somehow tmo will have a way to check if a Band 12 phone on their network also supports VoLTE before they let it connect to the network?

        • NexusPhan

          I don’t think so. I think if a manufacturer tries to get official T-Mobile certification with band 12 no VoLTE it will cause issues. Unlocked phones that don’t seek T-Mobile certification should be okay. I think.

        • Aaron C

          A user named “Adam” posted this in the other thread. Sounds legit to me. >>

          From: FCC ADOPTS WIRELESS 911 RULES — “If the handset fails to receive a signal, the handset would attempt to complete the call via the non-preferred carrier and would continue to rescan and reattempt the call until it is completed, the user terminates the call, or the handset loses power.” It sounds like it is very unlikely a 911 call will not go through. If a handset can only receive band 12, it should force roaming.

    • Aaron C

      If it supports T-Mobile VoLTE, it will be supported under band 12. That’s the real question to ask. If it doesn’t have VoLTE, then band 12 will most likely not be supported. That seems to be the distinction right now.

  • pseudoswede

    If I’m reading this correctly… if (and I guess it’s a big if) Motorola goes through the whole Band 12 dog & pony show for the Moto E (2015), a simple OTA update would allow the Moto E to utilize band 12 for both voice and data?

    Second hypothetical question: the Moto E on our account gets 30MB of LTE, then throttled for the rest of the month. Will the phone still be able to handle phone calls while on Band 12?

    • Fabian Cortez

      VoLTE isn’t counted against your data. The same applies on Verizon.

      • pseudoswede

        I don’t care about that. My question is: will VoLTE will properly work on a throttled data connection. My guess is yes, but it would be nice to hear from real-world experiences (especially when on Band 12).

        • taxandspend

          Throttled connection is to 128kbps I believe. Bandwidth of VoLTE is less than 1/5 of that.

        • Fabian Cortez

          VoLTE at most uses 12.85 kbps.

        • ” will VoLTE will properly work on a throttled data connection.”

          Yes from real world experience

      • ChristianMcC

        Love the name! Big X-Men fan, myself.

  • Will

    T-Mobile is sounding more like Verizon every day.

    • Fabian Cortez

      Do you not understand the technical and legal issues surrounding this?

      There are areas where T-Mobile is expanding using Band 12 only. Have a device with Vand 12 yet no VoLTE proves to be a problem legally and for the end user.

      VoLTE is the future and adding VoLTE to devices is in the OEM’s benefit as well as the end user. On the flip side, T-Mobile could make it easier and cheaper to get VoLTE certification.

      • Will

        Clearly you did not read the thousands of responses I wrote in the other Band 12 post. Of course I understand. This is T-Mobile’s way to avoid lawsuits.

        • Fabian Cortez

          This is T-Mobile’s way to avoid lawsuits.

          More like being in compliance with the law.

          Also, this isn’t the only reason. There’s something called “user experience” and that would be severely degraded in a Band 12-only area as the end user would have no way to make a phone call (!).

        • Will

          Wrong. It is about T-Mobile not getting sued if a user is unable to make a 911 call. Plain and simple.

        • Rob

          No you’re wrong. Imagine the frustration if a customer sees full LTE bars but is unable to make a phone call! It’s the equivalent of when people would accidentally lock their CDMA phones to EVDO only or forget (like I did a few times) to set it back to auto after a tethering session. I never tried it but I’m not even sure that dialing 911 would have overridden the radio setting. 911 is definitely important but customers make actual phone calls more often than they call 911……

        • Fabian Cortez

          Wrong. It is about T-Mobile not getting sued if a user is unable to make a 911 call. Plain and simple.

          No, it’s not that “plain and simple.”

          If you think the FCC wouldn’t leverage a fine and that consumers would complain about the user experience, then I have some property on the moon to sell you.

  • Ordeith

    T-Mobile doesn’t support phones for more than a few months anyway. Their phone support ADD is getting old. Time to leave them for good, I think.

    • steveb944

      You want support? Buy an iPhone or a Nexus, simple enough no matter the carrier.

      • Aaron C

        Yeah, but is LG and Huawai getting the VoLTE certification with T-Mobile? I might end up on AT&T yet. God help me.

        • steveb944

          I can pretty much guarantee it. LG and Huawei are both large worldwide OEMs that will deliver.

        • http://www.idc.com/prodserv/smartphone-market-share.jsp

          Motorola (Lenovo) had a larger market share Q1 2015 than either Huawei or LG. It was third behind Samsung and Apple. Lenovo and Huawei were third and fourth, respectively.

          Yeah, I was surprised too.

          I’m not optimistic about the VoLTE possibilities for the new Nexii.

      • Will

        No band 12 on iPhone. So Nexus 6 is the only way to go for now.

        • steveb944

          I meant upcoming, but that’s true currently. Touché.

        • Aaron C

          And I wonder if the only reason the Nexus 6 got it was because Google wanted to use it with Project Fi?

        • Rob

          The Nexus Snapdragon 805 in the Nexus 6 has native VoLTE support and T-Mobile certified the device for their network since they actually ended up carrying it. I’m not even sure the Snapdragon 410 in the E has a radio that supports VoLTE. It maxes out at Category 4 LTE so it would seem the modem is indeed cut down from its higher end brothers (Snapdragon 810 supports Category 9)

      • Or, the upcoming Talkman or Cityman.

        • steveb944

          Huh? No one really uses WP. But more power to you.

        • So, six million people is no one to you, eh? Nice job belittling real people who use the only OS that hasn’t had major security issues.

        • steveb944

          I’m sure OP was referring to the major devices on T-Mobile.
          It’s a crumb of a market. I had to actually Google the ones you mentioned because I thought you were trolling with the ancient relic of Nokia Cityman.

          I wasn’t belittling anyone, I said “more power to you” that you can manage to use and enjoy that OS with limited functionality/apps.

          ‘Major security issues’, don’t regurgitate mass media. It’s what happens on a popular OS, just look at PC. BUT if you remotely understand what you’re doing, and try to be safe you won’t have issues.

  • VG

    Basically, the days of using any unlocked phone on T-Mobile have ended if you want all the bells, whistles and frequencies associated with T-Mobile service. Question: what happens if I have a T-Mobile device that already supports Band 12, I am in a Band 12-only area and I manually turn off VoLTE: does the phone completely disconnect from Band 12 and I get a “No Service” indicator?

    • kbiel

      You appear to be reading more into this than is there. It does not say that T-Mobile will stop you from using a Moto E (2015) or some other phone with their network; just that they won’t certify it. There are legal and practical reasons for that Band 12 certification as mentioned in the OP and other comments here.

      • VG

        All I’m saying is that in order to get the optimal T-Mobile experience, you will need a GSM phone that supports WiFi Calling, VoLTE, and LTE bands 2, 4 and 12. The only phones that support all those features simultaneously are sold by T-Mobile. Name me one phone that isn’t currently sold by T-Mobile that supports ALL the above-listed features.

        I have no idea if the Moto X Play Edition sold by Motorola will support all these features (I guess we’ll find out soon when it goes on sale in the U.S.).

        • kbiel

          The Nexus 6 is not exclusively sold by T-Mobile and supports Band 12 with VoLTE and E911. I installed Marshmallow preview 3 on my Nexus last week and it covers all the bases. Other manufacturers will come around.

        • VG

          I didn’t say exclusively sold. Assuming the next iPhone has Band 12, I’m sure you can also purchase that at the Apple Store and get the optimal T-Mobile experience. Other than iPhones (again, assuming the next version has Band 12) and Nexus, are there any other phones you can buy outside of T-Mobile that gives you all the features of T-Mobile service?

        • thepanttherlady

          I think you mean the Moto X Pure Edition. The X Play isn’t being sold in the US.

        • VG

          Oops, you are correct. Don’t know why Motorola has different names for the identical phone in various countries. Isn’t the U.S. Moto X Pure Edition the same as the Moto X Style?

        • thepanttherlady

          That is correct.

        • steveb944

          I think it was already addressed that the Pure WILL NOT have VoLTE, meaning it wouldn’t have full support.

        • Aaron C

          If that’s true, there’s no reason to buy Motorola phones for T-Mobile anymore. The pure Android experience on T-Mobile seems to be going away. If the Nexus 5 and 6 2015 don’t have VoLTE, I might just go to AT&T — something that was unthinkable just a month or two ago.

        • steveb944

          You shouldn’t be buying Moto anyway since the Lenovo overlords are firing all the engineers from IMO the best time that Moto had in development.

          Don’t be so extreme. Google isn’t Samsung that removes features with new releases. I can guarantee that the N5 2015 and Huawei Nexus will have VoLTE. N6 had full support of T-Mobile, so will future releases.

        • Aaron C

          Google isn’t Samsung that removes features with new releases? Not to be disrespectful, but are you KIDDING me? Going back to the original Droid, I have a list of grievances with Google for removing functionality with almost every new release of a product. The Play Store is the worst offender of all. How about something as simple as separation of the alerts and ringer volume slider that was removed in Ice Cream Sandwich?

          I hope you’re right about the new Nexii.

        • steveb944

          We were talking hardware, but agreed. I hope you didn’t buy a Bada/Tizen phone tho.
          Honestly I feel everything Google does is just a big old beta that you just wait for them to say ‘nah just kidding with __ product’.

        • Fabian Cortez

          As a counter argument, if these OEMs want their devices on T-Mobile’s network (they’re clearly targeting them) then they need to go all the way.

        • Aaron C

          That is true. I blame T-Mobile, but really, it’s Motorola.

        • duscrom

          So… It’s a bad thing that T-Mobile is selling you the optimal experience for their carrier.. Isn’t that just them doing their job? Making sure the devices they carry are the best experience? To get an unlocked, phone is so that you can have the best YOU experience, not carrier experience. And from the reading of the article, It’s because Unlocked device makers can choose to skimp out on certifications and carrier specific technologies and features. I dunno, your statement seems pretty logical that.. If you want the best experince from a carrier, you buy from a carrier.

        • Adam

          The keyword in your post is, ‘currently’. I just cannot see this state lasting more than a few months. The handset market is too competitive.

    • Nate554a

      I’ve played with my Note 4 and S6 at home (I have band 12 and 4). Band 12 is a backup band it is much slower than 4 but has more penetration. 4 is T-Mobile’s mainstream LTE band. You turn off VoLTE and it just reverts to “standard” parallel voice radio (3/4G)

      • VG

        What happens if you are in a Band 12 only area, and there are no other T-Mobile voice and data bands available?

        • taxandspend

          You would be unable to make a call

    • Rod

      No, if the phone only has LTE data it will still show as having service. You’ll be able to use internet and text but incoming calls go straight to voicemaolil and outgoing calls fail. Sometimes voicemail/missed call notifications come through after the fact.

    • Kiwini

      Sounds like Tmobile wants to make sure you buy devices from them and /or are stuck on their network… With no contracts and no subsidies, consumers need ability to buy phones that can work equally on all 4 major carriers.

      • MastarPete

        There’s no conspiracy going on here. Just T-Mobile’s low subscriber numbers creating a situation where OEMs don’t see a profit in going to the trouble of fully supporting T-Mobile’s bands and technologies for a device that’s meant to be sold as carrier unlocked.

        They pick the technology and bands that are most commonly used in the region/internationally and go with that.

        The problem has existed ever since T-Mobile launched their data network 10+ years ago on 1700mhz.

        The only new thing here is the VoLTE requirement which should be glaringly obvious to have in areas that are VoLTE/LTE 700mhz only, meaning no fallback to GSM/HSPA.

        Keep in mind LTE is DATA ONLY!!

        Or do you seriously want to be in a situation where you have full data, but are unable to immediately make a call to local 911?

        • Dave

          Yes, I do. Because I have a free Google app installed on my phone called Hangouts Dialer. Anytime I have a data connection I can make phone calls.

          By removing band 12 support from the moto E, Motorola has made it so that owners will have no cell connection in areas where they used to have (and would otherwise have) data coverage.

          What if one of these people has an emergency in a zone covered by band 12? With this change, they will be unable to dial 911, or send a text to someone for help, or send an email to someone requesting help. They will be completely cut off, despite being within band 12 coverage.

          It’s quite possible that someone could die because of this, while within band 12 support range, with a fully updated moto E. A fully preventable death.

          Now Moto E owners have to decide between leaving their phone on an outdated and insecure patch with band 12 support, or update and lose a lot of coverage(and thus decrease where they can call for help in an emergency).

  • Marianne Myers

    I wonder if they will take the same stance on the upcoming Moto X Style (aka Pure Edition). I’m planning to get that when it comes out.

  • Aaron C

    The FCC award for the Moto G 2nd Gen clearly states that band 12 was granted. This is months after the Moto E debacle. Clearly, Motorola hasn’t “abandoned” band 12.

    • It kind of has. According to the specs page if the Moto G, the model XT1540 did lose band 12, but the model XT1548 fit US Cellular and Virgin kept it.

      • Aaron C

        So why do US Cellular and Virgin keep it enabled?

        • Cellphone Chris

          Might be moot if they don’t provide coverage using band 12.

        • Aaron C

          point

        • Tyler

          US cellular has a band 12 LTE network. They were one of the network operators balking at the FCC for 700mhz interoperability because they wanted band 12 on the iPhone.

        • MastarPete

          Does the Moto G 2nd gen support VoLTE at all?
          If not, there’s your answer.

          If it does not support VoLTE it means those carriers are either using band 12 for traditional voice traffic and/or LTE data.

          T-Mobile is clearly trying to use what little band 12 they have to provide in-building voice coverage using VoLTE, not just for LTE data. That means phones that want to be able to list compatibility with T-Mobile US NEED to fully support VoLTE AND E911.

          Think about what that would mean or how it would be like to have data (via band 12) but be unable to make a call.
          It would be incredibly frustrating and downright dangerous if you needed to call 911 but were unable to immediately contact local emergency services.

        • Aaron C

          Other carriers are supposed to carry emergency calls. That means if your phone drops to HSPA, any carrier in range is supposed to be able to place that call.

        • MastarPete

          I’ve been aware of that for quite a while, thankfully I haven’t had to make an emergency call.

          However, you’re still far better off having a native connection to your carrier’s network or the network you happen to be roaming on.

          Without a native or roaming connection to a network you’d be at the mercy of the network technology and bands in use by the other carriers wherever you happen to be when you need to make an emergency call.
          That includes signal levels or lack thereof. Emergency calls can’t magically go through without a network in range with signal levels good enough to complete a connection.

          In other words. Thanks to the lack of interoperability requirements there is no guarantee you’ll be able to get through when your phone is saying “emergency calls only”.

          The whole point of T-Mobile requesting Motorola “removing” “official” band 12 support centers around the following scenario…

          If T-Mobile’s band 12 VoLTE were the ONLY access available at the location you are attempting to make a call but your phone doesn’t support it, you’d be SOL until you can move to a position where you can get a signal on another band. In or life or death situation every second matters.

          Jokes about T-Mobiles coverage aside..
          That is a very real possibility, especially as carriers shift what technologies they have deployed.
          Case in point, T-Mobile and ATT aren’t deploying any new HSPA, ATT also has plans to shut down GSM and VZW wants to kill off EVDO.

  • phone145264

    Will apple go thru this cert process or will they just block band 12 with the upcoming iphone or
    will they show a clever trick of falling back to e911.

    Why didn’t tmo figure this out before deploying?

    Will this pose further complications when updating on iphones ios 9 and especially android phones, in a timely fashion? marshmallow anyone.

    • UMA_Fan

      No. Because unlike these lazy Android OEMs Apple already supports wifi calling AND voLTE for T-Mobile. Even on their unlocked models.

      • vinnyjr

        What about E911, does Apple support E911? If not does that mean no band 12 on the new iPhones? I’ve been waiting for the new iPhone.

        • UMA_Fan

          Yes Apple supports E911. They wouldn’t support T-Mobile wifi calling or volte without it.

          The best deal on the NEXT iPhone is T-Mobiles current offer to lease the iPhone 6. You lease the 6 get a free swap to the next iPhone and all you pay is $15/month for 18 months and then $190 at the end of the 18 months to own the phone.

          Total ownership cost is $433. For the NEXT iPhone.

        • phone145264

          I like the commercial for iphone almost sold but does it support the precious band 12.

          It is a shame as unlocked good/great phones are coming down in price, the most sought after band 12 probably will be missing.

          t mobiles cert will slow the updates on phone os’s.
          e.g when will we get marshmallow?

          We have to approve it then send it back to manufacturer. oh its has band 12 even longer

          What about a clever trick of falling back to e911.

          Why didn’t tmo figure this out before deploying?

        • “t mobiles cert will slow the updates on phone os’s. ”

          Yes but very little if they plan for it. Android OEMs are freaking terribly slow with updates regardless of band 12 cert or not.

      • Will

        No Band 12 on iPhone 6 or 6+. So that kind of puts the Nexus 6 as the better product on T-Mobile as it supports Band 12, VoLTE, and Wifi-Calling. All that from a lazy Android OEM.

  • JaswinderSinghJammu

    Hey guys this is off topic but can anyone suggest and cheap LTE enabled tmo or unlocked phones with nano sim. Backup phone for Nexus 6. Thanks

    • kiblawi2000

      HTC Desire 626s

  • Aaron C

    I wonder… Is it possible the only reason Motorola went through with the VoLTE with the Nexus 6 is because it was important for Project Fi? Maybe Google funded it? Was trying to think why Moto decided to add it to the Nexus 6, but doesn’t seem to want to add it to the Moto E or Moto G?

    • Rob

      The Nexus 6 was a top tier device that commanded a high premium. All high end devices are expected to have VoLTE and Band 12 support. Especially if it is going to be sold through T-Mobile. The E and G are more on the budget side so it doesn’t surprise me that they didn’t want to drop the extra cash.

      If you note the Moto X Pure Edition has all of T-Mobile’s bands and will likely support VoLTE, but it is also a 400 dollar phone as opposed to a 60 or 120 dollar phone.

    • Fabian Cortez

      Project Fi doesn’t use VoLTE or Wi-Fi Calling.

      • TJ Ninneman

        I’m pretty sure it does have Wi-Fi calling: https://fi.google.com/about/faq/#wifi-connection-and-calls-4

        • Fabian Cortez

          That’s what Google wants you to believe.

          T-Mobile CEO mentioned that they’re not using Wi-Fi Calling or VoLTE.

          It’s nothing but VoIP over Wi-Fi.

      • Aaron C

        It uses T-Mobile (at least partly), so it wouldn’t use band 12 as necessary? And by extension, VoLTE?

        • Fabian Cortez

          Project Fi doesn’t have any access to T-Mobile’s features. Additionally, VoLTE isn’t being used due to Sprint not launching VoLTE.

          How exactly would one transition from network to network (VoLTE on T-Mobile to circuit-switched calling on Sprint).

  • dontsh00tmesanta

    So the moto g3 has volte capability?

  • squiggleslash

    I’ll be honest with you, I’m struggling to understand what technical path could lead Motorola to support two essentially software-based features in some paths but not in another. Do they really use an entirely different software stack for each frequency? That’s ridiculous if so.

  • Mark Stewart

    In my opinion, if phone doesn’t VoLTE for band 12, the phone should switch over to GSM to avoid the issue of a drop call or failure to make a call. Is this not the behavior for data? Limiting the phone to VOLTE is irresponsible… The phone should be able to use all available capabilites.

    • Fabian Cortez

      Wrong. It is about T-Mobile not getting sued if a user is unable to make a 911 call. Plain and simple.

      Yet you didn’t truly comprehend what’s going on here. Let me reiterate.

      T-Mobile is expanding their network. Some of this expansion is with L700 only due to obvious reasons.

      In other words, there’s no GSM to fall back on.

      • SBacklin

        That’s what I’ve been trying to tell some people. They’re not getting yet that there isn’t a circuit switch network to fall back on in 700 lte expansion.

  • CellPhoneNut

    T-mobile needs to better job of explaining that you need to have VoLTE enabled to make calls on band 12. Until reading this news, I couldn’t figure out why my signal strength dropped when making and receiving calls. I re-enabled VoLTE and my phone is now working great.

    • Frettfreak

      they dont need to explain that to customers. 99% dont give 2 shits or even know what “band 12” is. From the article, sounsd like they make it VERY clear to OEMS and moto chose not to meet the requirements. Cause and Effect

  • Gavriel Ostrow

    tmobile needs to make sure that band twelve replace 2g voice

    • Tyler Kirchman

      That’s what they are doing with VOLTE