The Evolution of Video Calls: From Cellular Networks to App Dominance

Avery Emberly

Updated Wednesday, May 15, 2024 at 11:47 AM CDT

The Evolution of Video Calls: From Cellular Networks to App Dominance

The Rise of Video Call Apps

Video calling has become an integral part of our daily lives, allowing us to connect face-to-face with friends, family, and colleagues no matter the distance. However, the way we make video calls has evolved significantly over the years. In the early days, cellular networks were the primary means of making video calls. But with the advent of video call apps like Facetime and Meet, the landscape has drastically changed.

In the past, there was no common standard for video calling among carriers. This meant that different carriers used their own proprietary systems, making it difficult for users to connect across networks. As a result, apps like Facetime and Meet gained popularity as they provided a universal platform for video calling, regardless of carrier or device.

One of the challenges with video calls over cellular networks is the requirement for more bandwidth compared to audio calls. Video calls transmit both video and audio signals, which can overload cellular frequencies and lead to dropped calls or poor call quality. This is why video calls over cellular networks were not initially widely available.

Cellular networks are primarily designed for mobile data, allowing us to browse the internet, stream videos, and download files. While technically video calls can be made through cell towers, the limited bandwidth allocation for video calls proved to be a hindrance in providing a seamless experience.

To address this issue, carriers introduced ViLTE (Video over LTE) technology. However, despite its potential, ViLTE did not gain traction due to the overwhelming popularity of video call apps. These apps offered a more user-friendly interface and were accessible across different devices and carriers.

In the early days, carriers themselves offered video calling services. However, these services did not catch on due to limited phone support and the rise of free video calling apps. As smartphones became more advanced, they came pre-loaded with video call apps, eliminating the need for carrier-specific offerings.

Carriers now offer data plans, allowing users to utilize their data for various purposes, including video calls. This shift in focus from charging for individual services to providing data plans has been driven by the fact that smartphones already have built-in apps for video calling. As a result, carriers have no financial incentive to charge separately for video calls.

However, enabling video calling across all smartphones and carriers is a complex task. It requires a standardized system that is supported by all devices and networks, which is challenging to achieve. This is another reason why video call apps have become the preferred choice for users.

Moreover, video calls require both downloading and uploading video signals, doubling the required bandwidth compared to watching videos. The compression techniques used by streaming services are not sufficient for video calls, as they need to simultaneously upload and download data. If cellular video calls were widely available, the network would quickly become overloaded.

In recent years, the introduction of 5G technology has brought about advancements in cellular networks. 5G offers increased data capacity, allowing for faster and more reliable connections. However, 5G signals have a shorter range compared to older generations, necessitating the presence of older generations of cell tower signals to provide wider coverage.

The evolution of video calls has seen a shift from cellular networks to app dominance. The convenience and cost-effectiveness of video call apps, coupled with the limitations of cellular networks, have made carrier-offered video calls obsolete. As we continue to embrace video calling in our daily lives, it is clear that video call apps are here to stay, providing a seamless and universal platform for connecting with our loved ones.

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