In today’s digital age, technology innovation is commonplace for internet companies and OTT service providers. Not a month goes by without some new-fangled service or application – Periscope and Meerkat the latest examples – being introduced to the public.
But it’s a different story in the telecoms world. The innovation cycle is much slower, due in part to the difficulty operators have in getting their ideas implemented quickly and inexpensively by equipment vendors; and in part due the emphasis on the physical deployment, integration and commission of new hardware into the network. This process, which happens first for the test network and then for the live one, can prove to be costly and time-intensive, and ultimately impacts how quickly operators can modify and improve their networks. The result is often a telecoms industry that is left lagging behind in an otherwise fast-changing technology market, as operators struggle to react, innovate and ultimately compete.
VoLTE as the vehicle for innovation
Operators therefore need to find the missing cog in the wheel that will help the cycle of innovation move that little bit faster. While VoLTE has been purported to be the vehicle for much-needed service innovation, vendor and operator views on the technology point to it simply being an exercise in recreating today’s voice-calling experience on an IP-network, rather than anything too ground breaking. Many telecoms experts still perceive VoLTE as little more than layering an old service onto a new technology – albeit with some network efficiency gains – so it’s no surprise that operators aren’t rushing in to it. According to Ovum, only 4% of 4G networks operating today have launched VoLTE services.
The barriers to adopting VoLTE
So what’s turning operators off VoLTE? The perceived costs and time constraints associated with implementing the necessary changes to their core networks, for one. Add to that the uncertainty of how quickly they can undergo the migration of their subscriber base, and the availability (or lack thereof) of VoLTE-enabled handsets, and the gap between the theory and the real-world application of VoLTE becomes ever wider in their minds. Many of these assumed barriers are based on the idea that the traditional deployment of telecoms equipment is required, which is no longer the case. Virtualisation can provide a better path to innovation.