It won’t come as any surprise to anyone working in the industry that operators in Europe and Asia are pushing forward with their LTE-A, VoLTE and VoWiFi deployments. However, the rapid pace of development and launch illustrated in the latest Ovum VoLTE and LTE-A tracker (Q3 2016) shows the future is approaching faster than anyone expected.
At the current trajectory it won’t be long before the majority of subscribers in developed markets will be able to access improved data speeds through LTE-A and clearer voice services. VoLTE offers increased quality for consumers while in the case of Voice over Wi-Fi, operators can improve access to voice in areas with patchy indoor cellular coverage. This is a natural evolution that is now taking place at astounding speed.
According to Ovum, there are now 108 LTE-A networks commercially launched, the majority of which are in Europe and South East Asia. VoLTE is gaining traction as 82 operators have gone live, with almost 40% of these operators also offering VoWi-Fi services. Again, unsurprisingly, this is being driven by operators in the traditional first-mover markets of South East Asia and Western Europe, although there is also significant progress in North America.
If these new voice technologies are to follow the path of LTE with adoption rapidly increasing year-on-year, the technology will very quickly gain widespread traction across all major markets. At this point, the perception of carriers will move from those offering the service being seen as early-adopters, to those who can’t provide this connectivity being seen as offering inferior customer service.
It’s certainly an exciting time in the carrier services sector with the greater bandwidth and speeds offered by LTE (and now LTE-A) paving the way for a raft of new applications and use cases for wireless technologies. From a carrier perspective, the increase in data usage and range of new applications is great news as subscribers look to seemingly use the apps cross-border – increasing roaming revenues for operators.
In terms of next generation HD voice, we are working tirelessly to ensure that as the service becomes the de-facto standard, international services are able to provide the same high-quality services consumers are used to receiving in their home markets.
The interworking element has already launched with a small number of providers, and is in the pre-launch phase with many others. Roaming however provides a very different challenge with several options currently under trial to define best practice. Currently, operators can adopt VoLTE roaming solutions using: Local Break with Home, Visited Based Routing or S8 Home Routing. We are working together with operators on these roaming models to help them choose the recommended solution.
As always, we pride ourselves on providing our customers with access to cutting-edge international technologies, including the complete range of next generation voice and advanced LTE. As these services are launched in individual markets, BICS is there to support the transition to offering these services to operators when their subscribers are abroad or calling other countries.
It will be fascinating to see how these technologies continue to gain market traction, and we look forward to supporting our customers to ensure international borders do not provide degradation in service for their end customers.
An article by Divya Ghai WAKANKAR, Head of Voice Innovation and LTE Voice Product Management at BICS