By now, most of us involved within the Telecoms space will have heard about Voice over LTE. Like any new technology, it comes with a lot of hope and promise to improve customer experiences and reduce operating expenses, but what exactly is it and what challenges will it present for the service provider.
Voice over LTE, or VoLTE for short, is just another term for delivering voice calls over the Internet. Rather than using dedicated voice technologies, like GSM or CDMA, to route calls, VoLTE calls will be routed in a similar way to VoIP calls through existing services like Skype. However, the main difference is that instead of delivering calls over the standard Internet protocol, VoLTE calls are delivered over a mobile 4G LTE broadband network.
There are a number of benefits to VoLTE. The biggest being what it offers to the customer – higher quality calls, connected much faster than a traditional GSM or CDMA call. As calls are delivered over LTE networks, the latency for connection will be lower so calls can connect in about a second or two, versus the three or more seconds it may take to connect current calls over a mobile network. Additionally, carriers are promoting a major benefit as HD voice, which will allow better audio fidelity to be delivered, resulting in richer, warmer voices when connecting through LTE. Or to put it bluntly, no more crackling or static.
But for the mobile operator or service provider, underwriting such improvements in service quality brings a series of challenges. New services or technologies means new complexities. With VoLTE, operators have to integrate both the LTE access network as well as the IMS core – responsible for session management and media control. Also, advances with network intelligence enables both self-optimization and policy management of the available bandwidth dedicated to delivering such services. However, in reality, VoLTE service quality can often vary from location to location, even in the same service provider network.
This has driven the need for more intelligent monitoring solutions, capable of measuring the end-to-end performance of the VoLTE service, on an individual customer basis. Being able to compare the service quality one customer receives vs others, within the same location or adjacent, in near-real-time, can reduce significantly the time it may take to identify exactly why service quality is being impacted. Regardless of where in the infrastructure (Network Core, or the RAN) the impact occurs.
More significantly, such monitoring systems enable the service provider to obtain the insight needed on their customer base, and determine the customers’ actual, measured experience. Only with this level of information or insight will the service provider be able to deliver on the voice service improvements that VoLTE promises…