The emergence of voice over Internet protocol for mobile devices, or mobile VOIP, has the potential to transform the mobile device and telecommunications industries. The arrival of low latency LTE technology will finally resolve the latency problem in VOIP even as smart phones with integrated wifi continue to attract new customers to mobile service providers.
The capabilities of smart phones and a departure from the traditional contract structure for mobile wireless plans means that support for mobile VoIP is growing. The latest technology innovations such as low powered single chip radios with integrated VOIP protocol stacks, devices with integrated multimedia terminal adaptors and large scale, centralized Wi-Fi infrastructure promise to drive mass adoption of mobile VOIP.
The mobile VoIP market is expected to be worth $32.2 billion by 2013 and by 2019, moreover half of all mobile calls will be made over all-IP networks, according to recent industry reports. VoIP providers are also integrating Facebook into the desktop client. The social media giant has recognized the potential and is now offering its own mobile VoIP client for iOS. This move is just another indication of the role smartphones and tablets play in the overall mobile market, and the need for mobile VoIP providers to leverage strong partnerships with device providers.
For many enterprises , the optimum solution may be a combination of Wi-Fi and cellular. A Wi-Fi/cellular roaming solution requires dual-mode handsets that support both VoWiFi and cellular—and a network gateway. The gateway manages access and handoff and connects to both a mobile switching center for cellular calls and a data network for WLAN calls. As people move within range of a wireless access point, the gateway authorizes access and delivers both voice and data network services over the WLAN. When people move outside of coverage of the current WLAN, the gateway seamlessly switches control over to another WLAN or a cellular network if another WLAN is not available.
VoIP over a wireless LAN can provide easy internal calling for corporations, educational campuses, hospitals, hotels, government buildings, and multiple-tenant units such as dorms, with the ability to roam freely and advanced calling features such as voicemail and caller ID. Users can also use the LAN’s Internet connection and an account with a VoIP provider to make calls outside the site, including domestic long distance and international calls, often at no extra charge.
Telcos and Mobile VOIP
We can now envision a scenario with interconnected fixed network environments and mobile network environments, in any combination, including 3G on the mobile side, and with fixed broadband, cable, and ISP environments on the other. When making the transition to IP, Telcos must keep in mind subscriber demand for seamless functionality and consistency across multiple service provider networks and types.
Standards based Mobile VoIP solutions offer simplified converged services between mobile and IP networks that reduce coverage disparities and operations costs to deliver competitive subscriber prices, consolidated billing, and subscriber loyalty. Mobile VoIP solutions utilize Network Convergence Gateways that leverage standards based on SS7 signalling enabling voice and data calls on any SIP-based client.
The coexistence of wireless heterogeneous networks has been widely recognized, and it has become more common that new mobile devices get equipped with multiple and heterogeneous wireless interfaces. Furthermore, the recent advances in software-defined and cognitive radio technologies including the availability of TV white space spectrum promise even more diversity and heterogeneity. This presents lot of opportunities and challenges for mobile wireless networking. Environment cognizance, spectrum-aware mobility management, and vertical handoff thus become critical components in the Mobile VOIP solution space as does correct network design.
The Role of IMS
The mobile industry developed a standard for all-IP operations called Internet Protocol Multimedia Subsystem (IMS). The IMS standard promises to allow service providers to manage a variety of services that will be delivered via IP over any network type – including the mobile network’s packet switched domain (GPRS, 3G , 4 G ). With IMS, service providers will use IP to transport both bearer traffic and Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) for signalling.
Any IMS strategy must include a solid plan for supporting subscription-based, usage-based and tiered billing.The ideal IMS solution must integrate smoothly with the OSS because the picture grows even more complex with content-based billing, context based billing and differentiated billing by QoS. Disappearing are the days of only flat-rate billing; transaction-based billing on application usage and subscription profiles is a likely future reality.
You need an IMS solution that can reach across domains, for three big reasons:
1 : Quality of user experience — Your subscribers are going from one domain to another in real life. You need to provide a superior end-user experience and convenience wherever they are, on the same device or different devices.
2: Speed to revenue — When services can be delivered across access types, you’ll see faster acceptance among a larger community of interest.
3 : Future-readiness — You need the flexibility to address new and evolved business models two to three years into the future, even if you don’t know where your company will be.
Key Benefits of Mobile VOIP
• Communications service providers can capture wireline Minutes of Use (MOU)
• Improves quality of mobile voice and data services in homes, offices and public access venues
• Extends the subscribers single identity to the fixed-wireline venues and strengthens the brand to create a “sticky” service
• Open architecture yields best performance at lowest infrastructure cost
• Extends mobile footprint via unlicensed spectrum thus reducing capital expenditures on mobile base station construction and infrastructure
• Leverages the economics and prevalence of Wi-Fi and SIP
• Maximized existing and future infrastructure investments by deploying pre-IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) network elements today.
O2 UK is launching its Tu Go app the operator said will enable its users to make and receive calls, texts and voicemail via the Internet using their existing telephone number.The service, available on all Apple and Android devices, is free to download for O2 contract customers, with the calls and texts taken from their existing bundle.The aim of Tu Go is to free customers from being locked to a single handset : Customers can now take their mobile number wherever they like, even away from their mobiles !! O2 UK customers can be logged into the Tu Go service on up to five devices at once, said the operator. Incoming calls will ring all logged-in devices, including handsets using SIM cards associated with different networks and Internet-enabled gadgets such as iPods. Only available to O2 UK’s postpaid customers, it is a cloud-based telephony service, allowing the user to register multiple devices and make and receive calls and messages from all of these as if from their telephone number. Any usage comes from the user’s postpaid inclusive bundle.
TuGo can therefore be used regardless of physical location over Wi-Fi using the user’s home contract. This also makes it an FMC solution, because it will work indoors on Wi-Fi at places where mobile coverage is poor.Significantly, the integration with native communications services (telephony and SMS) means that users are not restricted to communicating with other TuGo customers. Exchanging calls and messages with users of basic services works well, with information (e.g. caller ID and dialed number) shared between the native dialer app and the TuGo service. All communication is organized in threaded timelines, and is displayed regardless of the device used.
Facebook paid a whopping $19 billion to acquire WhatsApp. Currently a messaging application, WhatsApp is looking to implement voice over internet protocol (VoIP) by June of this year. A prime example of the growth and prosperity of VoIP in the business market today, WhatsApp already has 465 million users – all of whom will be able to make VoIP calls after WhatsApp releases an update by the second quarter of 2014.
Africa is poised for Mobile VOIP revolution with the arrival of ample submarine bandwidth , the continued expansion of terrestrial fibre optic , low cost dual mode smartphones on prepaid and budding LTE networks. So the big question is : Are the Telcos going to profit from Mobile VOIP by offering carrier grade solutions to consumers and enterprises or will they let the OTT players to pile in and eat their lunch as usual ??? Time will tell
Sadiq Malik ( Telco Strategist )