While going through Anritsu whitepaper on VoLTE, I found this picture that explains the concepts of bearers in a VoLTE call well. From the whitepaper:
All networks and mobile devices are required to utilize a common access point name (APN) for VoLTE, namely, “IMS”. Unlike many legacy networks, LTE networks employ the “always-on” conception of packet connectivity: Devices have PDN connectivity virtually from the moment they perform their initial attach to the core network. During the initial attach procedure, some devices choose to name the access point through which they prefer to connect. However, mobile devices are not permitted to name the VoLTE APN during initial attach, i.e., to utilize the IMS as their main PDN, but rather to establish a connection with the IMS AP separately. Thus, VoLTE devices must support multiple simultaneous default EPS bearers.
Note that because the VoLTE APN is universal, mobile devices will always connect through the visited PLMN’s IMS PDN-GW. This architecture also implies the non-optionality of the P-CSCF:
As stated, VoLTE sessions employ two or three DRBs. This, in turn, implies the use of one default EPS bearer plus one or two dedicated EPS bearers. The default EPS bearer is always used for SIP signaling and exactly one dedicated EPS bearer is used for voice packets (regardless of the number of active voice media streams.) XCAP signaling may be transported on its own dedicated EPS bearer – for a total of three active EPS bearers – or it may be multiplexed with the SIP signaling on the default EPS bearer, in which case only two EPS bearers are utilized.
My understanding is that initially when the UE is switched on, a default bearer with QCI 9 (see old posts on QoS/QCI here) is established that would be used for all the signalling. Later on, another default bearer with QCI 5 is established with the IMS CN. When a VoLTE call is being setup, a dedicated bearer with QCI 1 is setup for the voice call. As the article says, another dedicated bearer may be needed for XCAP signalling. If a Video call on top of VoLTE is being used than an additional dedicated bearer with QCI 2 will be setup. Note that the voice pat will still be carried by dedicated bearer with QCI 1.
Do you disagree or have more insight, please feel free to add the comment at the end of the post.
The whitepaper is embedded below and is available to download from slideshare.