08 Aug 2011

Current VoLTE Development and Deployment

Our editor, Ian Poole talks to Scott Hoffpauir, Chief Technology Officer, Broadsoft about VoLTE technology and its deployment

With the announcement by GSMA at the 2010 Mobile World Congress that they would be supporting VoLTE as the technology of choice for LTE voice transmission.

However VoLTE was only chosen as the very first LTE networks were being deployed, so we asked Scott Hoffpauir of Broadsoft how he sees VoLTE developing and being deployed.

There is also little information about what VoLTE actually is in real terms so this was one of the first questions we asked.

Scott, can you help define the technical differences between VoIP over 3G, over WiFi and VoLTE? Further to that question – would it be accurate to describe VoLTE as VoIP-4G?

So when I talk about VoLTE, I am referring to the GSM Association IR.92 specifications. These specifications highlight specific standards to deliver voice and SMS services over an LTE network using IP Multimedia Sub-systems (or IMS as it is often called). So in other words, VoLTE is essentially VoIP over 4G using IMS.

The IR.92 specifications also define how voice and other services can be delivered over WiFi. In fact many mobile operators are planning to use WiFi as an “offload” vehicle paired with the LTE deployments. Since IMS is used as the common core network for LTE and WiFi, the services will be the same across both technologies.

What are benefits of VoLTE for mobile operators?

The rollout of LTE networks worldwide will provide more than just incredible speed and throughput for bandwidth-hungry mobile consumers and data applications. It will also provide new functionality across a whole range of communication tools for mobile network operators looking to target both consumers and enterprises.

The catalyst for this is the adoption of IMS within LTE, which enables mobile operators to continue offering high-speed data services, and later on improved voice services, while also integrating new innovative services and enhancing the more traditional unified communications elements such as presence, instant messaging, video and data sharing into a single access point – the mobile phone.

As well as these new and improved functionalities, large parts of the world which do not have access to a DSL connection will be connected to the internet for the first time using LTE. Not only is this a benefit for mobile operators who will be able to expand their market reach but this also means that we will start to see businesses being established outside of large cities – creating jobs and bringing investment with them.

Operators must distinguish themselves from over-the-top providers (OTT). Their advantage is that they control quality of service on their network and can deliver a superior grade of services compared to say a Skype app which would be delivered as a “best-effort” service.

Is it realistic to expect VoLTE to be carrier grade from the outset?

VoLTE specifications ensure the bare minimum voice quality and service requirements are as good as current circuit switch-domain voice, or better. It’s quite feasible that carriers will throttle over-the-top VoIP and Video traffic in order to protect their network resources. We are already seeing this with some operators in Europe.

What is the timescale around rolling out VoLTE? When do you anticipate there will be mass market adoption?

We anticipate early VoLTE deployments in 2012. Early deployments will likely use VoLTE for an enhanced calling experience – such as HD voice or video – in addition to 3G voice calling for regular calls. Verizon, who appears to be leading the field in VoLTE, is set to commercially launch their full nationwide service in 2012 and according to reports AT&T will be following a year later with a commercial launch of VoLTE planned for 20131.

Mass market adoption of VoLTE may encounter a bit of a “chicken and egg” situation. That is to say, operators will only complete the rollout of the LTE networks once there is a sufficient amount and variety of LTE handsets ready to go to market. However, we suspect handset manufacturers will start to invest in the mass production of LTE handsets when the LTE networks have been fully rolled out and living up to expectations.

During April and May this year we worked with a specialist research firm called mobileSQUARED who, on BroadSoft’s behalf, surveyed a number of leading mobile operators worldwide asking them a series of probing questions regarding their approach to VoIP, unified communications, rich communication suites and LTE.

None of the operators surveyed thought LTE handsets would be widely available this year. In fact, 34 percent thought LTE would not become a viable consumer offering until 2013, with 32 percent saying 2012. An additional 18 percent said it would be 2014, 10.5 percent said 2015, and five percent thought it would be 2016-2020 until there was sufficient availability of devices.

However, Verizon is leading the charge on this as they currently sell a number of LTE enabled handset from manufacturers, including three smartphones from HTC, Samsung and LG, which are available to customers.

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About the author

As Chief Technology Officer, Scott Hoffpauir is responsible for guiding the technical vision and direction for BroadSoft as well as promoting continuous product innovation. Prior to co-founding BroadSoft and serving as Vice President, Engineering since 1998, Hoffpauir was Director of GSM Development at Celcore (DSC/Alcatel USA). In this role, he was responsible for all product development on the GSM switching product, including system architecture, product requirements, software development, hardware development, system test/integration and product/customer support. Hoffpauir played a key role in setting up customer trials and providing sales support and served as representative to the GSM SMG standards body.

BroadSoft, Inc. provides software that enables fixed-line, mobile and cable service providers to deliver voice and multimedia services over their IP-based networks. The Company’s software, BroadWorks, enables service providers to provide enterprises and consumers with a range of cloud-based, or hosted, IP multimedia communications, such as hosted IP private branch exchanges, video calling, unified communications, collaboration and converged mobile and fixed-line services.

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