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Mobile operators are under pressure to improve mobile telecom service profit margins, as well as bring in new services to counter the competition from Over the Top (OTT) services such as Skype, Viber, Whatsapp, and FaceTime. Mobile operators have had limited options with 3G but 4G LTE should give them new tools. In 2Q 2012, minutes of use showed the greatest declines compared to 2011 in Asia-Pacific (-7.36%), Africa (-6.3%), Western Europe (-2.32%), and North America (-2.12%).“The only regions with any positive growth were the Middle East (8.5%) and Latin America (5.87%),” says Marina Lu, research associate at ABI Research

 

LTE does not just transform the delivery of broadband data, it also can enrich voice services. SK Telecom has launched the world’s first VoLTE services. More recently, LG U+ in South Korea and MetroPCS Communications in the United States have also introduced Voice over LTE. “Messages Sent” is keeping stable in Q2 2012 compared to last quarter, with Q-on-Q increase rate of 0.16% in Asia Pacific, 0.14% in North America, 0.18% in Western Europe.

 

In contrast, mobile data traffic continues its rapid increase with 13.4 Exabytes to be consumed through 2012, while over the forecast period the mobile data traffic could potentially reach 110 Exabytes by 2017, with a CAGR over the 2012-2017 of 53.4%. Overall global 4G traffic has a CAGR of 147.5%, compared to 3G traffic which has a CAGR of only 69.6%. “For voice communications, VoLTE enables rich media content to be overlaid over voice, while the packetized delivery of the voice data allows for greater cost of service savings”, adds Jake Saunders, vice-president for forecasting. Voice over LTE services might help operators to retain a competitive portion of the mobile voice over IP market.


The Challenges


OTT voice services which use external service providers, whilst cheap are considered “best effort” services, there is no provision for emergency services, since there is no correlation between the user voice session and the cell station ID. Since all OTT services depend on a software based client to operate, the reliability and call quality will vary from user to user depending on the other applications and services they are running concurrently on their smartphone. Both memory and processor power will have an impact on the service itself.

The IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) domain which provides the mechanism for legacy interconnectivity, billing and emergency services describes the SIP protocol as the transport for next generation networks, but doesn’t go as far as describing the physical implementation for hardware vendors to adopt. This is the reason OTT services have sprung up in lieu of a hardware based SIP stack, in lieu of a strategy which all vendors can agree upon. Since the IMS domain is designed to handle any type of real time traffic specifying the endpoint implementation would restrict the overall functionality of new services in the future, which is why the implementation is left open.

By Angela Sutherland

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