By Erin Harrison
Most of us are familiar with the technology of Voice over IP (VoIP) – which simplistically is the use of the Internet Protocol to do voice communications over data networks that include the Internet itself. And, while most VoIP traffic has been over wired networks, a new voice technology is evolving called Voice over LTE (VoLTE) that is shifting the communications paradigm and enabling new services beyond traditional telephony over mobile networks.
In a recent article in Alcatel-Lucent’s Enriching Communications e-zine, The New Mobile Conversation Starts with VoLTE, author Edmund Elkin states that, “It’s no longer a question of whether VoLTE is the right choice for the new mobile conversation. It’s really a matter of determining when to begin the move to VoLTE, developing a migration strategy and selecting a partner to accompany them on the journey.”
He points out that only a couple of years ago many people believed that legacy 2G/3G circuit voice would be adequate for 4G LTE subscribers. However, operators have now realized the value of VoLTE. For example:
- The GSM Association (GSMA) has aligned on VoLTE and IP multimedia subsystems (IMS) as the preferred way to deliver voice and texting in 4G LTE networks. This has created a global ecosystem of service providers, handset manufacturers and equipment vendors all focused on a method that supports scale, reduces complexity and enables roaming plus interoperability.
- Service providers are taking a closer look at the competitive value of mobile voice and VoLTE’s relationship to broader communications services’ innovation. They realize that 4G LTE puts application and content providers (ACPs) in a stronger position to deliver communications services and enable a new conversation experience with their customers — increasing not only revenues but loyalty.
- Service provider partners, such as Alcatel-Lucent, are developing business strategies and technology solutions for VoLTE and IMS. VoLTE is a serious engineering undertaking and service providers need a partner that can help them follow a profitable path
At the end of 2010, 72 percent of all mobile service revenue worldwide was associated with voice traffic. However, the average revenue per user (ARPU) for voice services has been shrinking. In addition, pressure is mounting from things like inexpensive or free voice services like Skype which can be used over the increasingly ubiquitous Wi-Fi networks that can be accessed by smartphones.
What this means is that customer “stickiness” and long-term economic viability is now an issue of accelerating the deployment of 4G networks, and through a variety of strategies and new business models managing the transition of making IP-based voice an integral part of the mix. With VoLTE as part of their 4G LTE portfolio service providers will be well-positioned to make the transition to the all IP world users are driving and competition is demanding, and still extract the value that voice services will continue to generate as part of new charging regimes.