In today’s data-centric world, LTE is typically associated with evolving high-speed data services; however, its voice applications are rapidly gaining traction. As global LTE network deployments rapidly accelerate, many operators are now turning their attention to the benefits that voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) can deliver.
According to a report (March, 2013) from Dell’Oro Group, sales of IP multimedia subsystem core systems, a major infrastructure component needed to launch commercial VoLTE service, have substantially increased over the last couple of months, primarily driven by operator capital spending on current and planned launches of commercial VoLTE services. The report indicates that, despite some initial concerns and technological complexities involved, operators are gearing up for VoLTE deployments.
As it stands today, VoLTE is implemented commercially in only four networks globally – three in Korea and with MetroPCS in the United States, while Verizon Wireless has recently announced that they would launch their commercial VoLTE service in 2014. Despite the technology still being evolving, many operators across the globe have either strategized or started to build their strategy around VoLTE services. As their strategies mature, many are ready to commercially launch VoLTE services once an official 3GPP/GSMA standard is established to obviate interconnection and interoperability issues. They understand that the benefits of VoLTE will off-set the capital investment and technological complexity involved in the VoLTE deployment.
Although data services usually make up a majority of an operator’s voice and data revenue, voice services are still important. Operators who have a VoLTE strategy in place understands that failure to drive timely innovation in voice services will allow over-the-top voice service (i.e. VoIP) providers to launch more sophisticated services and threaten their most fundamental offering. VoLTE will allow them the opportunity to reclaim some of the revenue taken from them by OTT voice service providers by empowering them to offer significant advantages over OTT services such as seamless mobility, quality-of-service, and call continuity and reliability; besides developing a more robust suite of rich media communication services.
As an all-IP technology, VoLTE offers significant advantages over today’s voice infrastructure and OTT services. Being able to offer next-generation services such as high-definition voice and ensuring seamless call handoff among various LTE networks is just the beginning. VoLTE can help define single wireless core network for both voice and data thereby allowing users to use many multiple media applications involving voice, video and data simultaneously on their smart devices. Operators benefit by providing higher value added applications, thereby increasing average revenue per user and maintaining common core, thereby reducing capital expenditures and operating expenditures. VoLTE holds the power to become an instrument of competitive differentiation by ensuring quality of experience across networks, better infrastructure efficiency, concurrent voice and data sessions, and the potential to be combined with rich media services, such as video calling. This leads to decreased infrastructure costs from network portfolio consolidation and increased revenues from advanced service offerings. With the use of data even for emergency services (NSVCE), a common network for serving emergency calls for voice and data sessions becomes important. 3GPP is defining the non-voice emergency services through LTE networks. Multiple media applications like instant messaging using file transfer, high quality media streaming, high quality voice at the same time, using different QoS and bandwidths are easily possible through VoLTE.
VoLTE has also become a de-facto requirement for offering voice in certain niche areas like for public safety. In public safety deployments, a portable core network is highly required, which can offer local services at disaster sites for not only voice, but also for multi-media applications, like for forwarding detail pictures/maps to the required officials. Many government organizations have chosen LTE as the technology for public safety and defense. For them, VoLTE is the prime mode for providing voice call service as this can help in having single core and radio access technology for both voice and data. In defense markets too, the VoLTE has become a prime requirement for the same reason.
Given the complexities involved in VoLTE deployment, the GSMA has created an end-to-end implementation guide to help operators better understand how to deploy VoLTE on their networks. The planned guide recommends not only VoLTE architecture but also details the advantages and disadvantages of various solutions. The migration to VoLTE will be a lengthy and complex process and involve multiple steps, standards, and interim solutions. Therefore, it is highly recommended that operators and OEMs find partners who have extensive expertise in the market to take advantage of all the benefits that VoLTE can offer.
This article was originally published in RCR Wireless http://bit.ly/18p60bb.