Jason Penton, senior manager for applications and services for Smile Communications, South Africa is taking part is panel discussion on managing network traffic on Day Two of the inaugural LTE Voice Summit, taking place on October 1st-2nd at the Hilton Paddington, London.
What are the biggest challenges to implementing VoLTE on your network and when do you foresee it being rolled out?
The biggest challenge we face right now is the lack of availability of true VoLTE devices. When we refer to a true VoLTE device, we mean a device that supports VoLTE natively, not through an over-the-top (OTT), add-on application. We have already tested VoLTE on our network using OTT IMS applications on an LTE access device but this to us does not represent a true VoLTE device. We will be ready to launch VoLTE services on our network as soon as true VoLTE devices become readily available.
Will VoLTE require new handsets to work and will users even be concerned about it?
Yes, new devices will be required if the goal is to offer a transparent service to users. Most users don’t care about the underlying technologies used to make and receive calls. All they are really interested in is the simplicity, quality and price of the service. This is where OTT VoLTE applications fall short in my opinion; they require too much interaction from the user (e.g. installing OTT software, configuration settings like IMPU/IMPI/password, accidentally uninstalling preinstalled software, etc). When it comes to calling, a user simply wants to “press the green button”, and not open an application and input a myriad of configuration information.
Can you foresee capitalising on VoLTE, possibly in combination with other RCS services?
Right now Smile is an LTE access provider offering data-only services. Our strategy is to make sure we are in a position to support VoLTE as soon as mainstream devices become available. We do not want to be in a position where we lose data customers because we do not offer voice (VoLTE) services. That being said, we still see huge potential revenue opportunities in real-time (voice and video) services on LTE. The benefit of high-definition voice and video calling, coupled with good QoS provides for some interesting plays.
Will VoLTE mean that operators will eventually be able to shut down their 2G and 3G networks?
From Smile’s perspective VoLTE enables us to offer voice and video services in addition to our data access services. So from a technical standpoint it is perfectly feasible to run voice (and other real-time services) and data on an LTE network. So the answer is yes, existing operators will eventually be able to shut down their 2G and 3G networks. The benefits of this includes being able to simplify the network, shed the unwanted OPEX of maintaining legacy technologies, simplify billing infrastructure and re-utilising spectrum. However, this is not as simple as it seems. Some operators still have not recovered their investment in 3G so turning off their 3G network would be impossible. Also, to be able to turn off 2G and 3G it will be necessary for all customers to acquire 4G devices (currently only high-end devices have 4G capabilities).
What are you most looking forward to about attending the first LTE Voice conference in London?
We are looking forward to engaging with other industry players. It would be great if we could find some true VoLTE devices to put onto our networks in Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda!