The adoption of long term evolution (LTE) is following the example of 3G but at a much faster rate.
However for telcos who are evolving to LTE it is not an option to operate separate networks for voice and data. Voice is set to become data and an integral part of LTE.
LTE and voice over LTE (VoLTE) are becoming the mainstream technology and by 2016 VoLTE is expected to account for 10% of LTE subscriptions according to Jan Liebenberg of Nokia Networks.
He said that the explosive demand for data, greater demand for quality and intense price competition are three good reasons for adopting VoLTE.
While the expected traffic growth predicted by various industry analysts vary, a good guess is that capacity requirements are expected to increase a 1000-fold by 2020 with a daily average usage increasing to 1 GB.
Over the top (OTT) services are squeezing the price per minute. Subscribers for their part are willing to change providers to get what they want. The concept of a service provider for life has gone out the window.
The escalating demands are driving the introduction of high capacity, all IP networks, with LTE providing the radio access for mobile connectivity. As the price of LTE smartphones drops and higher bandwidth applications such as HD video are introduced these trends will accelerate.
As the first radio technology that is fully packet-based, LTE provides faster access rates and lower latency, as well as enabling telcos to enjoy a lower cost per transmitted bit by using network resources more efficiently.
LTE is said to be the key to providing cost effective capacity to cater for the ever increasing bandwidth demand.
VoLTE offers advantages in four key areas: spectral efficiency, simplification, voice call quality and richer voice.
Improved spectral efficiency makes it possible for VoLTE to handle twice as many calls thus making it more spectrum efficient than previous systems.
It offers twice the spectral efficiency of 3G/HSPA and more than six times the efficiency of the latest GSM technology. This frees up more capacity for data which in some networks already outstrips voice volume by a factor of 50 – 100.
As both data volumes and LTE device penetration grow, spectral efficiency to carry more voice with less bandwidth will become a key advantage.
According to Liebenberg, consolidation is the key to OPEX savings with VoLTE; by integrating the voice and data domains on the same LTE network, telcos can significantly reduce their operating costs.
He said that the integration of the network resources, the optimisation of network and service management and the simplification of service delivery all help to reduce cost, and that by relying on one radio technology and using re-farming, telcos can adopt smart spectrum allocation to reuse exciting spectrum and reduce operational costs for the radio network.
Nokia Networks has calculated that the consolidation of the core network enables further cost benefits : 60% lower operations and maintenance cost, 75% lower site support costs and 65% lower energy costs.
The low latency of LTE provides clear benefits for VoLTE. Shorter delays and faster call set-up times enable high quality voice and data connections, helping improve the customer experience.
High definition voice (HD Voice) is the default with VoLTE and as past experience has shown, it encourages longer talk times and reduces churn.
Much lower delay and high capacity also enable HD video quality for video calls and the call set-up time required to switching between communication methods such as chat and voice is much shorter.
VoLTE and rich communication services (RCS) are based on the same IP multimedia subsystem, so VoLTE is much more that an IP-based variant of existing CS mobile service.
By enabling sophisticated voice based services it offers new revenue potential as well customer experience that cannot be matched by OTT providers or CS-based voice services alone.
According to Liebenberg, the evolution to VoLTE is a process that can be made in several steps and implemented in several ways. Some telcos will make the decision to offer either initially over a longer period a combination of CS voice and LTE data or over the longer term a combination of CS Voice and LTE data on LTE devices.
However in the long term the revenue-generating opportunities from enriched voice services for LTE smartphones are likely to be so compelling that operators will adopt IMS-bases VoLTE.
LTE is raising the game for mobile broadband. It is the first ever global broadband technology, and measured in networks, devices and subscribers, LTE is achieving the fastest ever uptake of any mobile technology.
It is also the first access radio technology that is 100% packet based which combined with the all IP-network core translates into greater efficiency.