This week, Kineto announced it now supports the GSMA’s VoLTE profile (IMS voice & SMS) in its Smart Wi-Fi client. Smartphones with the Smart Wi-Fi client will now be able to receive the mobile operator’s voice/SMS service (VoLTE) when attached to Wi-Fi.
I have always believed LTE and Wi-Fi were two sides of the same coin – both are high-speed, low-latency flat IP networks. LTE covers the macro/outdoor world, and Wi-Fi is by far the dominant in-building wireless technology. Marrying the two technologies into a seamless experience delivers a compelling experience for mobile subscribers.
In the move to LTE, mobile operators are adopting VoLTE, an IMS/SIP-based voice and SMS profile that replaces (replicates?) the existing circuit voice/SMS services used in GSM/UMTS networks.
As mobile voice/SMS account for well over 50% of mobile operator revenues, ensuring these capabilities are available on LTE is critical. So extending VoLTE to Wi-Fi just makes sense.
A smartphone at home (or in the office) will want the same high speed experience as the outdoor LTE network, and Wi-Fi, already deployed in >400m indoor locations around the world, is ready to deliver.
This got me thinking: What, if any, is the role of an LTE femtocell?
Femtocells, mini base stations designed for home use, have turned on hard times lately. Yet there is some talk of resurgence as the industry moves to LTE – the logic being that LTE networks will be patchy for the time being, and an LTE femto to boost in-home coverage will help accelerate adoption.
But let’s consider the role of a 3G femtocell today, and see if it applies to an LTE deployment/subscriber. A 3G femtocell provides a strong 3G signal in the home, boosting coverage. But really this amounts to a subscriber having access services that reside in the mobile core network – namely voice & SMS. Sure there may be mobile data services like MMS, Mobile TV, or Visual Voicemail too, but the bulk of the interest, and revenues, are associated with voice/SMS.
In the move to LTE, subscribers will still want to make a phone call, so access to voice/SMS is critical. With Kineto’s Smart Wi-Fi client, smartphones can access VoLTE over Wi-Fi directly, no LTE femtocell needed.
As for mobile operator data services, many are being adapted to the new ‘all-IP’ world. Apps are able to directly access mobile data services over any IP network rather than only from within a mobile RAN.
It seems that Wi-Fi, when paired with VoLTE over Wi-Fi, delivers the same experience as an LTE femtocell. Access to internet services (Facebook, YouTube) happens directly over Wi-Fi. And Smart Wi-Fi with VoLTE support delivers calls/texts via Wi-Fi.
Let me know what you think. Can an smartphone that provides VoLTE over Wi-Fi remove the need for an LTE femtocell?