Does VoLTE spell the end for the IN platform?

Written by on April 23, 2015 in Opinion with 1 Comment

There is much debate in the industry at the moment about LTE. LTE is the way forward. LTE will finally enable as much mobile video as you can possibly watch. All of which is fine, but then someone goes and spoils it all and asks about VoLTE. To customers voice is voice and they will not care how it is delivered. They will always expect it. To observers, it seems very like a tech industry that has gone full circle. To the industry it will require new thinking and considerable investment.

300x300-IN-WP-ad3Consulting firm Ovum, supported by Openet and OpenCloud has done a deep dive into some of the issues that VoLTE brings to light.

First, the deployment of LTE networks is well and truly underway. According to ‘Ovum’s World Cellular Information Service, there were more than 373 active LTE networks by the end of December 2014 and this is set to increase to 384 by the end of March 2015.’

It is voice, however, that will drive major change, and that major change will be the replacement of the IN platform. Whilst the IN platform can serve a useful purpose in some areas, the argument is that an all IP world will need something more. And, according to Ovum, even the much touted and much implemented real-time charging and policy management systems will not quite be up to the challenge when it comes to VoLTE and Voice over WiFi (VoWiFi).

IN was originally developed to allow the introduction of Value Added Services (VAS) over circuit switched networks. It was adapted and expanded, through the GSMA’s CAMEL standard, to allow prepaid customers to enjoy the same services provided by their home network, while roaming. There is no doubt that IN will be needed for a while – the author, Peter Dykes, believes about five years – but something must be done when voice needs to be delivered over these networks. This is because, ‘even when tightly integrated, policy and online charging systems are only part of the story because they are largely aimed at enabling data-centric services. Something more is needed if IN services are to be carried forward in next-generation network ecosystems, and new features such as VoLTE and VoWiFi are to be supported. That something is the equivalent of the SCP, known as the telecoms application server (TAS).’

One might ask, as observers often do, that if voice revenues are declining, why invest in voice. The answer is that in the long term an all IP network will be a more cost effective way of delivering voice and therefore be key to protecting margins. It is also clear that voice will ultimately be part of a ‘bundle’ and delivering that over multiple networks is both tough to do – and inefficient.

The paper puts the case for IN replacement, driven by that final hurdle, ironically voice, very well. It also poses questions that go right to the heart of the business proposition around LTE roll out.

LTE, and its evolved LTE-A, because of its efficiencies allows video and high bandwidth services to be delivered at a fraction of the cost of 3G. This, of course, drives the temptation for operators to charge a premium for 4G services, but they should think carefully before following this route. LTE brings with it an opportunity to radically disrupt the inertia that has crept in with the journey from 2G, to 3G, to 4G. Operators can now use the potential of LTE to grab market share from each other. And to do this, pricing and service offerings will be all-important.

The conclusion is not only that LTE provides a game changing opportunity for operators, but that operators need to both think carefully about pricing. And while doing that, think carefully about the ultimate replacement of an old friend, the IN platform.

You can download the free white paper here.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .

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  1. syed shiraz hussain says:

    Awesome justification of voLTE and I am sure it will eliminate more nodes and obselete traditional systems but it will take decade to implement it worldwide as telco companies are on test bed covering major part of globe.

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