Cellular networks will migrate to all-IP - eventually. What's missing is the business case and customer demand for new SIP services. That was the conclusion of a panel discussion on converged networks led by Telecom Asia editor-at-large Robert Clark. The roundtable, sponsored by Cisco Systems, pulled together nine telecom executives from the region to discuss the challenges of next-generation mobile
Moderator: What's SingTel's approach to next-generation mobile‾
Cheong Hai Thoo: I think the days where we sell lines and circuits are probably numbered. We can't say just how long, but you have to anticipate that need. We increasingly have the option of moving more and more services onto the packet network. How do we manage this transition, so we can capitalize on the wider bandwidth and migrate services gracefully‾
So it's all about the transition. What are some of the specific issues an operator faces‾
Mohammad Shahril: You want to ask, 'do you want to do it‾' and 'when do you want to do it‾'
For [Celcom parent company] Telekom Malaysia, like most fixed operators, the legacy switches are getting obsolete. You need to move to class 5 softswitches and so on. So, that becomes the driver toward the next generation.
As an operator you look at it and ask do you need to do it now. We have launched 3G, with IMS bundled into it by Nokia, and at the same time Telekom Malaysia is implementing class 5 and class 4 softswitches. That's the start.
Recently, a very strong push had been developing at Telekom Malaysia for fixed-mobile convergence. From a service perspective, there's a lot of opportunities across the various different media.
William Ho: What you're saying is the convergence of all the technologies and the applications makes it a requirement that you move to next generation.
Mohammad Shahril: That can be a driver. But I guess the number one driver is do you need to do it‾
William Ho: What are the key concerns and risks from the operator point of view that stop you from migrating, and what are the benefits‾
Mohammad Shahril: One of the major issues is capex. It's a huge amount of capital expenditure. There is no business case. Mobile operators survive on 'I put in one dollar today, I want my dollar back in a week.' You don't have anything more than a month. Unfortunately, the days of the ramp-up of subscribers is no longer there, and ARPU has gone down and will stay down.
Have any of you had a conversation with your CFO about this‾ What does he say‾
Mohammad Shahril: He says: 'Where are you going to get the money again‾ Maybe 24 months‾ Maybe I won't give you the money!'