Launching Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and Voice over WiFi (VoWiFi) has for some time been seems to be yet “another” large project operators are undertaking with more or less success and driven both by the need for operational efficiencies and customer demands.
The question is whether the colossal time and efforts that are being spent by operators to make the efficient IP-only LTE (or 4G) networks backward compatible will ever payoff? The main drivers seem to be efficiencies in spectrum and the promise of being able to provide convergent services based on IP. Moving voice calls to data networks at least in theory means a simpler network to manage and thus lower operational costs. Other industries such as digital and media have been successfully delivering these types of services for years, eating into the two cash-cows on which telecoms has been built, namely voice and messaging, only at a fraction of the investment.
But Blue Telecom Consulting (BlueTC®) is seeing a consistent trend that operators are layering networks and running them in parallel which is not financially sustainable in the medium or long term. LTE is another network and is not intrinsically compatible with 2G and 3G. As an all-IP network, it provides customers with a better mobile broadband experience and can deliver services which require bandwidth on the move, such as video, which is high in demand. Given the realisation that 2G and 3G networks will at some point of time be turned off, naturally there is a compelling desire from the operator perspective to support voice as a network and quality of service function over LTE. This though, requires further investments in the core IMS and LTE for radio, which together with compatible handsets are the basic ingredients for VoLTE. All-IP networks may also be exposed to new security risks and vulnerabilities, which again call for new tools and solutions in the area of network security.
The operators’ journey towards successful commercial launches of VoLTE and VoWiFi brings with it a series of technical, commercial and operational challenges which all need to be carefully considered before too much time and resources are invested:
- The number of elements impacted by the service: eNodeB, ePDG, S&P GW, PCRF, MME, MSC, TAS, Charging, among others.
- Policy & Charging Controller traffic: A two to three times increase in TPS volumes.
- Session correlation is necessary as Rx and Gx have to function simultaneously.
- DRA becomes a must for PGW and PCRF session correlation.
- IMS and PCC solution maturity and fine tuning is required for a smooth and successful service deployment.
- The implications of moving from a circuit switched network to an all IP network and thus the exposure of the VoIP/IMS network to new security issues.
Commercial and Operational:
- Securing first day, first user call quality user experience in general is a must, since comparison with OTT apps will be made.
- Optimise VoLTE drop call rate and improve VoLTE call end user experience.
- VoLTE is not customer lead initiative but mainly serves network efficiency and engineering purposes while VoWIFI extends reach and internal coverage. New services and access technologies require a unique E2E focus on operator’s organisation.
- Operators do not expect big revenues from VoLTE nor VoWiFi, so operator related CapEx and OpEx have to be monitored in all activities and phases.
- The Interconnect issue between Operators is not well established and needs further standardisation.
Operators might in particular want to consider the following projects:
- Core Network Readiness: Do you havethe right Core Network foundation in order to successfully support legacy and new IMS based services?
- VoLTE E2E Service Readiness: In addition to your Core Network Services, have you tested the VoLTE E2E Service Readiness?
- IMS/VoIP Security Management: A comprehensive Security Validation is recommended as well as an Intrusion Detection System (IDS).
- IMS & VoLTE E2E Testing Automation: Functional Automated Testing is typically applicable in Use Case testing services, needed for E2E service functional acceptance. TTM and testing cycle costs can be reduced by applying different testing automation tools and methods to an existing service testing environment.
Sounds interesting? Our team of experts is ready to discuss different options and approaches with you. Meet us at the incoming upcoming IMS World Forum 2017 in Madrid or schedule a conference call or meeting here!