Will 2014 be the year of VoLTE?

    Greetings to all. Today we have a somewhat unusual post for the Yota blog: translation of one foreign publication . The thoughts expressed in it seemed interesting and relevant to us, in many respects in tune with our vision of the situation around VoLTE. And it is very interesting to evaluate the experience of large foreign operators, with what nuances of implementation they are facing or may face. We do not agree with some estimates, but the material is still very interesting. Indeed, it is the analysis of the pioneers' experience that will allow other operators to take into account possible risks and not make the same mistakes. Welcome to cat.

    Perhaps one of the most significant events in the field of telecom, which slipped from the public eye at the beginning of this year, was AT&T's announcement that they were expecting “mass introduction of VoLTE in the market” by 2015. This is extremely significant for the technology, whose launch was scheduled for 2014 (occurred May 23), and mass distribution - for 2015. AT&T opposes T-Mobile, which also launched VoLTE in May this year. The decision of these two giants of the American telecommunications market to launch high-quality voice service is the main support for VoLTE technology itself. Given the level of investment and the aggressive deployment of LTE, it can be assumed that AT&T and E-Mobile decided to focus on LTE as the main protocol for voice services.


    Given the activity of the operators, it seems that the separate existence of voice services in the CS domain and data services in the IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) network of LTE will soon be lost. Operators are relentlessly looking for ways to lower operating costs, and equipment vendors are touting very impressive ways to save money by sending both voice and data over the LTE network. Savings can reach 60% of the level of operating expenses and expenses for maintaining equipment, 75% of the level of expenses for maintaining infrastructure and 65% of the level of electricity costs. Add to this an improvement in spectral efficiency (twice as much as 3G / HSPA and 6 times as compared to GSM) - and you will get very good reasons for adopting VoLTE.


    But it is not only a matter of cost savings. Korean operator SK Telekom, the first to introduce VoLTE, said that this technology can greatly improve sound quality (the frequency range is 2.2 times wider than when transmitting on a 3G network), as well as reduce call time to 0.25-2. 5 seconds (versus 5 seconds in 3G). It should be noted that more than 4.5 million subscribers of SK Telekom use the VoLTE service , which they advertised as an HD voice, so if they talk about improving the quality of voice communications, then they should be trusted.


    Given the pace of LTE network deployment and the growing fleet of 4G devices, VoLTE will have a very powerful foundation. The research company Telecoms.com Intelligence recently conducted a survey ( source ), which showed that the vast majority of operators plan to implement VoLTE over the next two years after the launch of LTE. Judging by the news regarding the activity of AT&T and T-Mobile, the two-year period seems to be a fairly accurate estimate.


    From the point of view of billing and business support systems (BSS), the implementation of VoLTE will require solving a number of issues. Firstly, most operators will charge VoLTE calls according to the same principle as voice calls: start and end time, calling and receiving numbers, national call, international, etc. But since VoLTE calls are an effective way to send “voice” over a data network, in accounting and billing systems you will not have to take into account the amount of transmitted data, but instead switch to voice call accounting algorithms.

    Secondly, quite unexpectedly, but for VoLTE calls you have to use QoS. The fact is that the resources allocated for each VoLTE call can change unpredictably, so the policy management system will have to dynamically control these resources to ensure high quality sound. And here one problem arises: the Heavy Reading research firm interviewed 80 operators regarding future policy management (Survey results ). 60% of the companies surveyed said that their policy management systems needed to be updated in order to be used in VoLTE, and 10% said that even updating would not solve the problems and they would have to completely change the existing systems.


    Unfortunately, this is not new. We periodically witness how mobile products are introduced with the initial promise of a free service. Often altruistic marketing is behind this, but occasionally it becomes a result of the unavailability of business support systems. For example, when billing cannot collect and charge the necessary information.

    So if operators are going to bring VoLTE to the market as a high-quality voice service (as some have already received), then they will have to make sure that they can really provide the promised quality. A feature of VoLTE is the application of QoS for every call, and policy management systems should be able to do this from the very beginning.

    - As we have already said, we do not agree with all the points and concerns. But we are interested in hearing the opinion of Russian experts regarding the prospects for introducing VoLTE in Russia. What, from your point of view, are the possible dates, the main difficulties? Do you agree with the views and conclusions outlined above?

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