It's stunning really... Who would possibly suggest that mobile operators, currently deriving close to 80% of their total revenues from voice, may consider existing the voice business?
Thanks to coverage from Fierce, I got a chance to download a whitepaper from Northstream, a strategy and consulting firm based in Sweden. The whitepaper, titled "LTE: The Bigger Picture", starts off covering Telia's LTE service, but then discusses the larger implications of a move to LTE. One aspect to consider: a Voice Strategy.
Quoting from the paper:
"Since the GSMA's announcement of the VoLTE initiative in February 2010, it appears clear that the telecoms industry has agreed on using IMS and MMTel as a standard for voice over LTE. The technology choice is made, but only affects LTE: GSM and UMTS networks will continue carrying the bulk of voice trffic during any mobile operator's planning horizon."
"Sonner or later, operators must decide whether to invest into voice, or wehether to slowly exit the voice segment as GSM networks approach their end of life. Some operators may conclude that LTE voice revenues do not justify the related costs and uncertainties: Cost for service platforms, RCS solutions, device software, subsidies, customer service, as well as the risks concerning battery life, handover and user experience will be main challenges."
"The trend towards rich online comunnication adds to the issue: Online service provides such as Skype, Google and Facebook will enter teh voice market or have already doneso, providing a user experience that includes contact management, presence, messaging, and video calling. This raises the bar for operators to deliver a service that today's mobile voice is just a small part of."
So let me paraphrase:
- While VoLTE (or IMS Telephony) has been chosen as the technical standard for voice over LTE, in practice, it is limited because it only works over LTE [no surprise there...]. Plus today's circuit network will be around for years because of UMTS/GSM.
- Some operators may conclude the investment expense in VoLTE does not provide a ROI.
- Plus, VoLTE will struggle to keep up with the features and capabilities of third party VoIP providers.
It seems to me that Northstream is suggesting operators have two choices: bite the bullet, and pay up to get a VoLTE (IMS voice) solution, or abandon voice revenues in LTE.
To me, it seems like the industry could benefit from a third way... a middle ground between "exit the business" and "massive investment in a solution solely for subscribers on one network".
I think the industry might benefit from a technology which uses an existing, proven, and paid-for voice platform... a voice solution which is consistent with the GSM/UMTS voice solutions... a solution which is very low-cost because it doesn't require any new switching infrastructure...a solution which can work with RCS or other value added data services.
This is exactly what VoLGA set out to do. Provide a low-cost, feature complete, voice service for LTE. If you're going to IMS, VoLGA is the only step in that direction, if you're not ready to commit to IMS, VoLGA provides a viable interim step.
All or nothing is not a choice.