In a recent post we discussed what VoLTE is all about and where things stand with respect to carrier support for the technology. In this post, we’ll look at the benefits that VoLTE brings to carriers and to enterprise unified communications applications.
VoLTE, which stands for Voice over Long-Term Evolution, enables voice calls to travel over the data portion of a wireless carrier’s network. In the long term, that will be of huge benefit to carriers because they won’t have to operate separate networks for voice and data as they do today, says Bill Welch, senior product manager for the signaling line at Sonus Networks, which makes session border controllers (SBCs) and other equipment that helps make VoLTE possible and safe to use.
Once they convert most or all of their customers to their LTE networks, carriers will be able to retire their 2G/3G networks, reclaim that spectrum and use it for LTE. That will give carriers bigger bang for their buck because they can get much more traffic on the same spectrum with LTE than with older technologies, Welch says.
Carriers also have a fair amount of money tied up in legacy billing systems tied to those older networks. They can likewise retire those systems and realize big operating and capital expense savings, he says. (Whether they pass those savings on to customers is another question.)
All this won’t happen overnight, of course - probably over 5 to 10 years. In the mean time, VoLTE also promises significant benefits to enterprises as they roll out UC implementations that encompass mobile users.
Benefits of VoLTE Include Unified Communications Apps
One simple benefit has to do with smart phones. Today, they need two radios, one for the carrier’s voice network and one for the data portion. Eventually, they’ll need only one, which will provide extended battery life, Welch says.
But the larger benefits will be enhanced call quality and new sorts of services. With respect to quality, carriers will be able to offer high-definition voice. “Rolling out VoLTE will enable carriers to Bose-ify voice and put a high quality audio experience on the phone,” Welch says.
Carriers have been constrained with respect to how much they can innovate on voice services because of the aging circuit-based technology upon which those services rely, Welch says. “Now that they’re moving to IP and in particular SIP, people can easily write applications that provide enhanced voice, video and data services,” he says, including presence and the like.
“Unified communications applications become much easier in an all-IP network,” Welch says. With VoLTE, users will be able to start with a voice call, transition to video and back to HD voice. Previously, such applications were possible only with so-called over-the-top applications from the likes of Google and Skype. “Sometimes they work, sometimes not,” he says.
Making VoLTE Work: Behind the Scenes
Meanwhile, behind the scenes there is a fair amount of infrastructure that is necessary to make VoLTE work in carrier networks. This includes session border controllers that provide security and transcoding (as explained in this previous post) as well as diameter signaling controllers, which provide signaling for call setup and control in the LTE network.
As an aside, Welch says signaling is an area experiencing dramatic growth these days, about two to three times that of mobile data overall. That’s because of all the “chatty” apps on our phones that are constantly getting pushed updates without the user doing a thing.
“You may only look at Facebook twice a day but applications can push you lots of updates during the day,” Welch says. “Those updates are probably 95% signaling and 5% data.”