Carriers must play their part in enabling new revenue streams for LTE networks, based around a mix of value-added services. Capacity investigates.
Continued from LTE SPECIAL REPORT 2014: A value-added tack, part I – Introduction
At the moment, most operators transmit voice calls over circuit-switched 2G and 3G networks. But VoLTE is much more efficient from both a network and spectrum perspective.
Those operators that have already launched VoLTE services have generally been able to charge a premium for it, because of the higher-quality voice calls it enables compared to 3G. But there is so much more that can be achieved with VoLTE that could lift it from being just a slightly improved voice platform.
"It’s our observation that most operators see VoLTE as an opportunity to update how voice is delivered, and also a chance to reduce the cost of delivering those services," says Windle. "But if you’re viewing VoLTE as just a cost-reduction exercise, then there will be little appetite to do more than just replicate what you’re doing today."
VoLTE allows operators to transmit voice calls over LTE networks and through their IMS cores via IP, just as they already do with data services. In this way voice calls and data travel together over LTE, creating possibilities for new services combining the two.
One of the carriers leading the way in supporting service providers in this is Tata Communications. Via its IPX platform, it is allowing service providers to offer customers benefits like near-instant call setup, better sound quality and the ability for HD voice conversations with non-mobile users.
"Our VoLTE offering enables mobile operators to generate additional revenue through increased usage, especially in high-margin roaming scenarios and international calling," claims Christian Michaud, SVP for strategy and development global voice services with Tata. "Adding VoLTE to the portfolio provides operators with potential advantages over OTT providers, who may not be able to match the quality of experience."
Looking further ahead, it is possible to anticipate that operators will be able to use VoLTE – perhaps in tandem with RCS – to offer real-time language translation, social presence information and video voicemails, allowing them to compete better with OTT innovations.
But operators should be wary of the potential that OTTs will see in using LTE for their own ends, says Stefano Cantarelli, VP network and CTO with Huawei UK.
"LTE provides OTT voice applications with the perfect conditions for offering a high-quality service," he warns. "Broad bandwidth, low latency and being always online mean that OTT voice applications can operate almost barrier free. The high user footprint means that many users are already using these services, particularly for long-distance and international calls."