This post is by Sue White, Senior Director of IP Platforms Marketing, Alcatel-Lucent

This is a great year for voice over LTE (VoLTE), with big carriers worldwide launching the new HD service. The industry saw seven launch announcements in May alone, including AT&T in the United States and NTT in Japan. But the real VoLTE excitement is not just about better mobile voice or reducing costs.

Instead, here’s the real power in today’s VoLTE launches: It’s the first step to overhauling an outdated communication strategy, helping carriers to reach their full potential in a communications market that is very different from the one they created decades ago.

The bigger, forward-looking opportunity

To capitalize on the bigger opportunity that VoLTE brings, we first need to accept what has changed.

  • The days of charging for basic voice and text messages are gone.
  • We own several devices (and not all from Apple) and want to consume comms on all of them.
  • We don’t care what kind of network we are on (LTE, Wi-Fi, 3G, fixed or any other). We want to access comms across any of them.
  • We are social beings and like to be with groups and share.
  • We love to talk and message, and the younger ones love video comms too.

With these points in mind, what are the ingredients of a new communications strategy?

  1. Don’t think of VoLTE as voice but as the foundation for a new IP communications network that delivers ‘features’ that can be used by themselves or integrated into apps, web sites and devices. These features include HD voice, IP messaging (the long awaited replacement for text that adds content sharing and more), presence and video communications. These are the core building blocks for any real-time service.
  2. Don’t charge for basic voice, messaging and video communications. Focus instead on a new data-centric business model and win customers over with greater personalization and value. That doesn’t mean there is no money in communications, far from it, as you create value (as discussed in the blog, “The Secret Value of VoLTE”) by:
  • Increasing the amount of data people consume by connecting more people to more content across more devices. Use comms to get more devices into the data plan.
  • Creating stickiness and winning more market share for up-sell opportunities. If your subscribers have their family on one plan with a great user experience and communications included – it’s hard for them to churn from that.

With the above two ingredients in place, this is where the bigger opportunity for communications begins.

  1. Start to innovate. This has been virtually impossible until now. In fact, legacy networks don’t connect with the places we spend most of our time — the web and mobile applications. The key to innovation is to turn your IP communication assets into easy-to-consume features that can be added to any application or web site and extended to any connected device. And by easy, I mean JavaScript libraries, SDKs or REST APIs that are simple to use, on demand and require no knowledge of the back-end systems.

One example of this kind of innovation is from Alten who has built an app with our New Conversation APIs to enrich anonymous incoming VoLTE calls with supplemental information retrieved from web sources. Another is Quobis who built a client app using our WebRTC to extend VoLTE to web-connected devices, creating new revenues right from the browser.

  1. Pursue new markets where communications really matter. Large enterprises are badly in need of a communications overhaul (as discussed in the blog, “How to Kill Shadow IT”). Current enterprise landline systems are based on costly, cumbersome PBXs and siloed unified communications systems. They can’t deliver the agility and ease of use required for today’s ever-changing enterprise. And mobile devices, of course, are entirely separate. That gives carriers a great opportunity to lead with a mobile-first strategy — leveraging the strengths of VoLTE to deliver an open platform for communications, where comms are embedded directly into business apps and tools.

A good example is Phonedeck, who recently won the hackathon at the Next Gen Service Platform conference. They embedded mobile communications into a customer relationship management system using our New Conversation APIs.

And by adding geolocation, metadata and contextual information into the mix, the opportunities are endless — whether to enhance your retail services, pursue new markets (web, verticals, M2P, M2M and more) or explore new revenue models with wholesale application partners.

Cloud, the missing ingredient

These bigger and broader communications opportunities need one more thing to make them happen — the cloud. And here’s why. First, when people talk about cloud it’s usually about lowering costs through automation and significantly speeding up the time to deploy and scale new services. These are all important benefits that cloud will bring to IP communications. But there is something more fundamental.

Cloud enables you to rethink how you engage your customer. Going forward, it’s the customer or developer who will drive the service and experience they need, using your communication services on demand through APIs. For example, if a business person needs a high-quality video conferencing session, this on-demand request will be triggered by an API. Then everything behind it will be automated in the cloud — including the use of software-defined networking (SDN) to guarantee the quality of the video conference in the network.

In other words, cloud becomes the mechanism to deliver on this bigger communications opportunity, allowing you to serve your customers in an entirely new way. And that’s why several of our customers are already virtualizing parts of their VoLTE network today and moving aggressively towards a cloud-based delivery model.

These exciting opportunities all begin with VoLTE — which opens up the tremendous potential of an all-IP network and new ways of thinking. Carriers who recognize the opportunities now can lead the way, with an overhauled communications strategy that brings a new spirit of innovation, enabling your customers to drive the service experience they need.

Comments on: "VoLTE is here. So what’s next?" (1)

  1. While all of these are good prescriptions, the question is, “are the service providers in a position, strategically and tactically, to pull them off?”

    Service providers need to undergo a fundamental rethink as to where they are strategically in the stack. As balkanized, edge-access providers, they have a limited view of demand, whereas the core app and content providers have a holistic view of demand. Why is this important? Because optimal pricing that stimulates demand elasticity (in other words becomes self-fulfilling) only occurs via ex ante iterations of clearing possible supply and demand outcomes.

    Another way of looking at this is that as vertically integrated edge access providers, the service providers need to over invest in capex and opex for a too narrow demand opportunity. This model is not sustainable and we are seeing it’s decline in slow-motion. However technology is compressing 20-30% annually, so the rate of decline will increase, not decrease. We saw this happen to IBM in the early 1990s, but they realized a change was necessary and adapted.

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