Not Everyone is Ready for VoLTE, But You Can Deploy VoWiFi
There is no doubt that VoLTE deployments are gaining momentum. That’s certainly indicated by a March 2016 SNS Research study predicting a 36% CAGR between 2015 and 2020 for VoLTE deployments. That number us increasing from a current baseline of 46 operators who have deployed VoLTE as of January 2016 according to the GSA.
VoLTE growth is certainly encouraging, but the limited number of actual deployments to date amplifies the challenges involved in converting to a 4G environment. Mobile Operators have spent more than 20 years optimizing their 3G networks. Now the expectation is that you need to quickly pivot to a communications infrastructure that requires significant investment along with new skillsets that may not be present within the organization. That’s not easy!
Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) is adding another layer of complexity and uncertainty for those considering VoLTE. NFV provides a number of cost saving benefits while adding flexibility to scale for changing voice, video and data traffic conditions. Service providers investing in VoLTE may want to consider deployment within a virtualized environment. However, NFV adds its own challenges, and it’s not just about the technology. As a Telecom Italia exec noted at the March 2016 MPLS/SDN/NFV World Congress, “the technical hurdles would be easier to overcome than the business and organizational ones.”
These conditions emphasize the point that not everyone is ready for VoLTE right now. But the problem is that subscribers have alternatives. OTT providers are increasingly available with low cost or no cost services based on an IP infrastructure provided by the mobile operators themselves. They have essentially created an unfair playing field as consumers will live with poor quality service from an OTT source because of the cost, but they will expect much more from an MNO or MVNO.
Compounding the challenge is the widespread availability of WiFi service. Research from iPass in January 2015 noted that the 50 million mark was exceeded for publically available hotspots around the world. Lack of cellular coverage or poor service especially in homes and office buildings are additional factors favoring OTT WiFi alternatives.
Mobile Operators are finding themselves in a tough spot. Moving to VoLTE certainly paves the way for enhanced services and hopefully a competitive edge, but the challenge is steep. Fortunately, there is an alternative!
Mobile operators can focus on deploying Voice Over WiFi (VoWiFi) service to quickly and efficiently offer voice and SMS via WiFi. These are visible services that their subscribers will instantly recognize as valuable. The immense costs and timeframes required for a VoLTE deployment can be sidestepped with or without an IMS core! For example, a VoWiFi platform can be deployed with an IMS ready backend and downloadable clients for those operators who have not yet deployed an IMS. The opportunity exists to customize these solutions, providing branding benefits to further build competitive differentiation.
“Carrier grade” quality for VoWiFi service must be delivered to stand above OTT alternatives. With thoughtful design efforts, this can be accomplished in many ways, beyond just deployment of PCRF and IMS, and can mean seamless transition between WiFi and cellular networks, and consistent performance with security.
NewNet Mobile Communications provides a VoWiFi solution using its Krypton platform that delivers carrier-grade performance. Krypton can be deployed on premise or from the cloud if a CSP is seeking even faster deployment with minimal capital investment. A key Krypton benefit is that a VoWiFi solution today does not preclude VoLTE in the future. A mobile operator can step up to VoWiFi now and then add VoLTE or RCS service later without wasting the initial Krypton VoWiFi investment.
It may not be the right time yet for VoLTE for every operator. However, VoWiFi makes sense now for many who can provide a valuable service and even solve some coverage gaps by taking advantage of WiFi.