Service Providers must meet the VoLTE Interoperability Challenge


At the LTE Voice event in London European service providers will be meeting to discuss how to implement new services like voice over LTE (VoLTE), and rich communications services (RCS). 

Industry analyst Ovum’s Telecom, Media & Entertainment Outlook 2015 highlighted the challenge facing providers. It estimates revenues from voice accounted for the majority of mobile service revenues last year. With the report estimating total mobile service revenues in 2014 at nearly $1 trillion, there is still an enormous amount of revenue associated with voice services.

It doesn’t take a marketing guru to realize that the continuing growth of voice over IP (VoIP) service usage is eroding this revenue stream, and the Ovum report believes that in 2015 “mobile data (including mobile broadband access, mobile messaging, and mobile VAS) will overtake mobile voice in terms of revenue mix, with voice in sharp decline in most markets”. 

This decline in mobile service provider (MSP) voice revenues coincides with the arrival of LTE, and with it the challenge to plan a medium-term voice implementation strategy. 

From a marketing perspective, MSPs have so much revenue tied up with voice services that they have to try and retain existing customers by developing their propositions to counter both the price and functionality of over-the-top (OTT) services, from Apple, Skype, and others. To do this, and deliver improved features, they must change how voice services are delivered.

Coinciding with this challenge is the arrival in Europe of VoLTE services. In the past month, there have been announcements of both new VoLTE services, such as the announcement from 3 UK about ‘Super-Voice’, and new devices that support VoLTE, such as the iPhone6S. 

These arrivals do provide the capabilities that MSPs need to compete. First, VoLTE allows more voice capacity than 2G and 3G, and has a lower overhead than VoIP, according to Alcatel-Lucent. Second, the development of richer communications, such as multi-device services using WebRTC, is easier with VoLTE.

But a major challenge for providers is interoperability. Compared to testing the performance and quality of service (QoS) on legacy circuit-switched voice networks, MSPs need to ensure that services can be delivered across different handsets, different manufacturers, and across different networks, mobile or fixed. VoLTE and other new developments such as Voice over WiFi, and HD Voice are breathing new life into the traditional voice services market. For VoLTE and VoWiFi to succeed, they’ve got to deliver voice services that are perceived by customers to be as good as or better than competitive alternatives. There’s only one way to know if VoLTE and VoWiFi are ready to launch: measure the user experience and compare it to competitive options.

Excessive packet delay and loss can occur anywhere in the end-to-end service delivery path, from the IMS core to the device. That makes it more difficult than ever to isolate QoS issues that impact user experience. For example, excessive packet delay may relate to IMS configuration issues, dynamic jitter buffer performance, eNB resource scheduling or many other factors.

With legacy voice services, the industry needs answers to questions like: “does my device or service have the best speech quality?” and “which smartphone drops the fewest calls?” With the transition to VoLTE and VoWiFi, the industry also needs answers to new questions like: “why was the speech quality poor?” and “what were the root causes?” Service providers need tools to answer all the above questions and more - helping to identify user experience issues, isolate root causes and improve VoLTE and VoWiFi services.

At the Informa event in London, Spirent will be addressing these issues of VoLTE quality of service and interoperability. In a panel discussion on network traffic management and assessing QoS of VoLTE Calls, Buchanan Blake will be providing our perspective from projects in the US. Spirent experts will also be supporting BT’s Head of Mobile Devices Samuel Kemp in a workshop focused on addressing device interoperability issues and will provide valuable insight into their experiences, and how to address these issues using the Spirent Elevate platform. 

If you are unable to attend the event, but are interested in learning more, download our eBook VoLTE and RCS: Getting it Right.


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