Ian Pattison, International CTO of Mavenir, explains how VoLTE and VoWi-Fi will drive MNOs from voice-centric to data-centric strategies
LTE Insights: How is VoLTE laying the groundwork for new service innovation?
Ian Pattison: VoLTE is a fundamental change for multiple reasons. First, it’s the first time that MNO voice service is independent of the macro cellular network and user equipment (UE) - it’s basically VoIP with QoS. This enables MNOs to extend services to any IP enabled UE and over any access network like Wi-Fi or broadband. Second: VoLTE is built on IMS, which enables single users to have multiple user experiences and single subscribers to have multiple identities. This opens the MNO to the world of multi-device and multi-identity services. And third: IMS is also built as a generic multi-media architecture. It opens up possibilities for MNOs to offer services besides voice, like video, presence and messaging, all utilizing the same infrastructure.
To what extent does VoLTE create incentives for RCS adoption?
RCS is a small evolution leveraging IMS and VoLTE. With native clients now available, the promise of RCS being available via native address book is becoming reality - this provides native services to compare with OTT offerings without the downside of downloadable apps, especially across Wi-Fi networks as well as macro-cellular. Further improvement of inter-carrier agreements is possible as VoLTE has the foundation of IMS interconnects.
Most operators view VoLTE as necessary but insufficient. RCS provides video and other rich services as well as support for non-SIM devices/SIM devices. RCS is an opportunity to exploit VoLTE investment and provide richer services that users expect, not just better quality voice service.
Where does Voice over Wi-Fi fit into all this?
From a user perspective VoWi-Fi is a way for operators to improve experience by resolving coverage issues in the macro cellular network, especially for indoor coverage, high-rise coverage or MNOs without low frequency spectrum. The result is improved quality assessment scores - a key way for networks to measure quality.
VoWi-Fi can be provided via the same infrastructure as VoLTE. However it does not need LTE RAN and circuit-switched core upgrades to support VoLTE. This makes it a natural stepping stone to VoLTE and preparing networks for next-gen IMS services. In some developing Asian countries, particularly ones that export labor, MNOs target overseas foreign workers with VoWi-Fi capable phones which help keep them in touch with friends and family back home, all at the cost of a local call.