A cross mobile networks deploying LTE radio access technology, Voice over Long Term Evolution (VoLTE) and Video calls over LTE which utilise IMS technology are recognised as the industry-agreed progression of voice services. VoLTE facilitates far richer, multi-media voice services, increasing the service quality by offering HD Voice and interest delivered to consumers globally.
“The implementation of VoLTE offers operators many cost and operational benefits – for example, eliminating the need to have voice on one network and data on another. VoLTE will also unlock new revenue potential: utilising IMS as the common service platform,” said the GSMA.
Operators know that VoLTE can be deployed in parallel with Video calls over LTE and RCS multimedia services including video share, multimedia messaging, chat and file transfer. Customers are demanding a better experience when making calls and operators need to offer them better services.
“VoLTE will provide high quality voice and video services, the difference in quality between OTT VOIP and VoLTE will be more significant and visible to customers. The superior quality is definitely a strong tool at hand,” said Ramy Boctor, chief technology officer at Vodafone Qatar, to CommsMEA.
Ihab Ghattas, assistant president at Huawei Middle East, said that several Middle East operators have already tested VoLTE on their networks. “That is a trend we expect to see continue in the years ahead. This is in part because VoLTE has distinct advantages in terms of spectrum utilisation and the user experience. Calls can connect ten times faster while four times as many users can occupy a given area without compromise of their call experience. However, VoLTE isn't just about technology. CFOs in particular have seen how it influences consumption behaviour, its effects on operational efficiency, and how business value can be created,” he added.
Riad Hartani, partner at Xona, believes that most markets would offer a platform of growth, with different markets over time, in horizons that would last from now to a few years down the road.
Abdulrahman Addas, partner at Bain & Company said that the markets in the region offer a potential growth opportunity for this service. “Given their current price points, GCC markets are poised for the immediate potential,” Addas explained to CommsMEA.
Pricing for VoLTE is a controversial subject for operators in the region and it is important to keep in mind that operators are still generating a good part of their revenues from the existing legacy systems, mainly the 2G and 3G networks, highlighted Ghattas.
“When it comes to voice applications, replacement of such systems with the latest technologies like VoLTE has to be carefully and gradually done, with innovative solutions not compromising existing revenue streams before gaining enough experience and confidence in the new technology,” he added.
“VoLTE is CAPEX intensive investment; it requires right pricing strategy to benefit both customers and operators. MEA operators, being early adaptors, are setting the scene for effective pricing strategies,” said Boctor.
GSMA VoLTE initiative
Based on the LTE and IMS specifications developed by 3GPP, the GSMA VoLTE initiative is addressing the entire end-to-end voice and SMS ecosystem. The goal is to achieve a consistent industry-wide approach to delivering these services for LTE, which will embody the following principles:
Promote scale: For a VoLTE/Video calls over LTE implementation to work throughout the community of 6 billion+ connections (and growing) – across all networks and devices, it is vital that it be based upon a single technology, and not undermined by fragmentation or diversity
Reduce complexity: Lack of common deployments between networks can detract from the overall quality of the voice and messaging service for the customer (e.g. end-to-end HD Voice). A common implementation, adhered to by all, will enable messages and media to be delivered optimally, thus providing customers with the best quality of experience in the market.
Enable interconnect and roaming: If all parties adhere to a single, common implementation of interfaces between every device and network, seamless roaming can be optimised in the all-IP world.
These principles will underpin the ways in which voice, SMS and RCS will work in the future, and will define the interfaces for end-to-end calling structures, which facilitate interconnect and roaming.