Defining a Major IT Transformation Now Happening in Telecoms

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2014-12-14 Print this article Print
digital disrupt

That would include VoLTE, an acronym for Voice over LTE, which is based on the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) network. This approach results in the voice service being delivered as data flows within the LTE data bearer. This means that there is no dependency on (or ultimately, requirement for) the legacy circuit-switched voice network to be maintained. VoLTE has up to three times more voice and data capacity than 3G Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) and up to six times more than 2G GSM. Furthermore, it frees up bandwidth, because VoLTE's packets headers are smaller than those of unoptimized VoIP/LTE.

Why VoLTE is Playing a Key Role

So VoTLE is a clear challenger -- and an ultimate replacer -- of status-quo voice services supplied by conventional telecoms.

"VoLTE is just another data service," Kelly said, "but it is rich communication that includes voice, video and messaging. Operators are now trying to determine how to deploy it. What they're faced with now is a business model predicated on selling data service packages. Most services offer all-you-can-eat voice and messaging -- it's free. What you pay for is your data consumption.

"As operators look to roll out new services like VoLTE, video and others, what they're doing is looking at ways to monetize them. So there's this transformation within their infrastructures, where they say 'OK, we need to move to deploying application-based services based on the value of that content.  So if it's video, you're actually aligning that service to the value that's being delivered to the consumer and the enterprise customer," Kelly said.

"What that means is, you have to change your systems. You have to change your billing systems, your delivery system, how you assure those systems -- it's a full lifecycle change that they go through," Kelly said.

These aren't forklift upgrades; they are migrations that continue to support existing services on existing infrastructure. But they need to be migrated to support new digital services like VoLTE, Kelly said.

NFV, SDN Two Hot Topics

The hottest topics at the TM Forum conference were NFV (network function virtualization) and SDN (software-defined networking), which take the intelligence out of management control in the switch and move it into a software layer.  Operators want to know how to reduce their capital investments by virtualizating as many hardware components as possible.

"And they still want to be able to scale up and support these new services," Kelly said. "Things need to be elastic, dynamic and on-demand, because we're moving to turn up services almost in real time."

In order to do that, telecoms are looking at their systems and what they need to do to change them. They're looking at changing out purpose-built telecom equipment -- often 10 to 20 years old -- and move it to an x86 platform.  "And then, they need to abstract those software control functions out of that," Kelly said.

"They need to be able to turn up virtualized EPCs, based on the demand they get. There are advantages in terms of speed to market, reduced costs to deploy the equipment because there is less operational expense, and less capital investment by going to a cheaper hardware platform," Kelly said.

"At the same time, they need to be able to spawn those resources when they need them, rather than have idle capacity sitting out in the infrastructure."

So this is the main strategy telecoms are putting together in their battle against those nasty over-the-top IP providers. eWEEK will be keeping close tabs on these trends in 2015.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK. Twitter: @editingwhiz


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