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Not Everyone is Ready for VoLTE, But You Can Deploy VoWiFi

Posted on: April 18th, 2016 by Mobile Communications

There is no doubt that VoLTE deployments are gaining momentum. That’s certainly indicated by a March 2016 SNS Research study predicting a 36% CAGR between 2015 and 2020 for VoLTE deployments. That number us increasing from a current baseline of 46 operators who have deployed VoLTE as of January 2016 according to the GSA.

VoLTE growth is certainly encouraging, but the limited number of actual deployments to date amplifies the challenges involved in converting to a 4G environment. Mobile Operators have spent more than 20 years optimizing their 3G networks. Now the expectation is that you need to quickly pivot to a communications infrastructure that requires significant investment along with new skillsets that may not be present within the organization. That’s not easy!

Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) is adding another layer of complexity and uncertainty for those considering VoLTE. NFV provides a number of cost saving benefits while adding flexibility to scale for changing voice, video and data traffic conditions. Service providers investing in VoLTE may want to consider deployment within a virtualized environment. However, NFV adds its own challenges, and it’s not just about the technology. As a Telecom Italia exec noted at the March 2016 MPLS/SDN/NFV World Congress, “the technical hurdles would be easier to overcome than the business and organizational ones.”

These conditions emphasize the point that not everyone is ready for VoLTE right now. But the problem is that subscribers have alternatives. OTT providers are increasingly available with low cost or no cost services based on an IP infrastructure provided by the mobile operators themselves. They have essentially created an unfair playing field as consumers will live with poor quality service from an OTT source because of the cost, but they will expect much more from an MNO or MVNO.

Compounding the challenge is the widespread availability of WiFi service. Research from iPass in January 2015 noted that the 50 million mark was exceeded for publically available hotspots around the world. Lack of cellular coverage or poor service especially in homes and office buildings are additional factors favoring OTT WiFi alternatives.

Mobile Operators are finding themselves in a tough spot. Moving to VoLTE certainly paves the way for enhanced services and hopefully a competitive edge, but the challenge is steep. Fortunately, there is an alternative!

Mobile operators can focus on deploying Voice Over WiFi (VoWiFi) service to quickly and efficiently offer voice and SMS via WiFi. These are visible services that their subscribers will instantly recognize as valuable. The immense costs and timeframes required for a VoLTE deployment can be sidestepped with or without an IMS core! For example, a VoWiFi platform can be deployed with an IMS ready backend and downloadable clients for those operators who have not yet deployed an IMS. The opportunity exists to customize these solutions, providing branding benefits to further build competitive differentiation.

“Carrier grade” quality for VoWiFi service must be delivered to stand above OTT alternatives. With thoughtful design efforts, this can be accomplished in many ways, beyond just deployment of PCRF and IMS, and can mean seamless transition between WiFi and cellular networks, and consistent performance with security.

NewNet Mobile Communications provides a VoWiFi solution using its Krypton platform that delivers carrier-grade performance. Krypton can be deployed on premise or from the cloud if a CSP is seeking even faster deployment with minimal capital investment. A key Krypton benefit is that a VoWiFi solution today does not preclude VoLTE in the future. A mobile operator can step up to VoWiFi now and then add VoLTE or RCS service later without wasting the initial Krypton VoWiFi investment.

It may not be the right time yet for VoLTE for every operator. However, VoWiFi makes sense now for many who can provide a valuable service and even solve some coverage gaps by taking advantage of WiFi.

To find out more please review our Voice Over WiFi – Opportunity Today White Paper.

NFV Agility for Communication Service Providers

Posted on: February 19th, 2016 by Mobile Communications

NFV (Network Functions Virtualization) is a network architecture that provides a number of benefits that were previously more difficult to attain due requirements to dedicate hardware for specific applications and/or services. Instead, NFV allows standard off-the-shelf hardware to be assigned as “virtual machines”. Virtualized servers are deployed with management resources to more cost effectively offer an environment with additional benefits.

Cost savings is certainly the first benefit that comes to mind. However, business agility may in fact be even more important as competition for subscribers heats up. How can “agility” be quantified? Flexible scalability is an area where NFV make great sense. It’s not just in scaling up for spikes in voice and messaging. Sporadic promotions, seasonal variations, or internal issues may create situations where scaling down is also a benefit.

Support for NFV will also make it easier for existing systems to be applied for new application testing or phased roll-out of innovative services. Not having to pay for or wait for dedicated hardware streamlines time to market. NFV “greases the skids” for deployment, helping Communication Service Providers by more quickly realizing a revenue stream for any new service.

Perhaps another less obvious NFV benefit is the role infrastructural agility can play in helping to make organizations more innovative. Lowering the capital expenditure bar for server resources due to NFV flexibility resonates to the highest level of an organization as risk/reward tilts in favor of action instead of “wait and see” when capital expenditure requirements are reduced. Opportunities in new geographies or with new partners can more easily become reality as service providers take existing functions and instantiate them as a virtual machine on lower cost standards-based servers.

Efficiency without a doubt is one of the most visible NFV benefits. However, Communication Service Providers should be keenly aware that business agility achieved via an NFV foundation could be the spark that ignites top line revenue gains by facilitating time to market speed and encouraging organizational innovation.

Google is proving that RCS is more than alive and well

Posted on: November 19th, 2015 by Mobile Communications

Based on a review of publicly available information, Jibe’s platform doesn’t negate IMS and, as I understand it, requires an interfaces with an operator’s IMS platform. RCS application servers are just hosted in another location (‘the cloud’), and operated by another party (‘Jibe’) – this is a different business model not a different technology model. Unlike NewNet’s solution, Jibe’s solution cannot be deployed within an operator’s network without IMS. It does not include:

• OMA Presence
• Multi-device support
• Common Message Store
• VoIP calling with bi-directional integration with Circuit Switched Calling
• Fully bi-directional interoperability between IP Messaging to SMS (IPSMGW)
• The OMA Network API
• WebRTC support and several other critical features (OMA CPM anyone?) in the RCS specifications.

Google is American. The telecom industry is one of the most highly regulated industries globally. Most nations have laws and regulations regarding data privacy, legal intercept and foreign control of national communications. Many nations preclude data being stored in the USA. Operators will always have to evaluate any hosted Google RCS service offering against their own national regulatory framework. Blackberry learned this with its BBM service in India and so has Apple in the USA in its battle with the FBI. WhatsApp is fighting this in India and in the UK. Jibe could operate under the radar of national regulatory authorities with its small user base. Google cannot.

It is unlikely that Google is about to start cooperating with hundreds of governments world-wide, nor can they launch Google Fi as a global telephone company. This means there still is a huge opportunity for the infrastructure vendor community, but only if they operate with quality, innovation and speed.

Google isn’t going to launch API’s any time soon. Google will not become the next Twillio. No one I’ve spoken to in the industry is aware of any implementations of the OMA RCS Network API by Jibe. Furthermore, Google has long had the ability (and credibility) to create such an API with its numerous Google Voice and Talk APIs and they haven’t. We don’t see Google launching API’s any time soon.

My Conclusion. Google has just shown everyone in the telecom world that RCS is not dead. Google is going to rapidly accelerate the deployment of RCS, with a high level of standardization in the Android operating system. It will be a multi-pronged approach with a reference Android client solution and an optionally hosted back-end for operators to get started. This will spur operators to get moving on deploying their own infrastructure to take advantage of the breaking of the log jam of having RCS clients available.

Brent Newsome- Vice President Business Development

Wake-up call for the Industry is good for operators

Posted on: November 3rd, 2015 by Mobile Communications

Google has reach. 82% of the smartphones on the planet run Android and 67% of tablets run Android. One of the most maddening things NewNet has experienced as it deploys RCS is the inconsistent and fractured nature of the RCS implementations we’ve seen by the handset manufacturers, the network equipment vendors, and by the downloadable client developers. Through shear market dominance Google should be able to bring a level of technical discipline, adherence to standards and engineering excellence through its ubiquitous presence and legacy of engineering excellence.

This is good for operators as it should mean an end to the continuous test-fests, debugging and wire shark traces followed by bug fixes (and the rinse, lather repeat cycle) that have dominated the implementation cycles of RCS technology to date. Once integrated it will mean rapid deployment.

There are Other Hosted Solutions. NewPace (now a NewNet division) foresaw the need for smaller operators to have a hosted solution for their IP communications infrastructure, so did Jibe. Both companies have advocated and deployed cloud solutions that empower smaller operators to launch faster and smarter in order to accelerate technology adoption. There were also 16 other competitors who tried a hosted product offering including InterOp, OpenMind, Infinite Convergence, Ericsson.

NewPace & NewNet were the first in the industry to have an accredited hosted (“cloud”) solution, and it is still available to operators, this will not change.

If there is an industry threat from Google it is to traditional network infrastructure vendors who have done the RCS ecosystem a huge disservice by delivering poor quality RCS implementations at a snail’s pace. These vendors should ask themselves honestly how much more slide-ware and hand waving they are going to put in front of their customers when there is a credible alternative in Google. This is the true wake-up call for the industry.

Brent Newsome- Vice President Business Development

Google is not about to launch an iMessage clone

Posted on: October 27th, 2015 by Mobile Communications

Google has deployed a range of services such as Google Talk, Google Voice and Google Hangouts, yet they have not deployed an iMessage-like service despite having the technology and application framework to do so for years.  Those convinced that Google would ultimately deploy their own messaging solution fail to understand the very nature of Android’s open source origins.  There are several license agreements related to Android.  The first is for the base operating system, and the second is for Google Mobile Services.

The Android Operating System components are governed by the Apache License Version 2.0.  Google Mobile Services are under a completely “separate license” from Google, and comprise Gmail, Chrome, Google+, Google Maps, YouTube, Google Docs, Google Translate and Waze.   Google Mobile Services are proprietary and not open source. These applications must be licensed from Google by device makers, and can only be shipped on devices which meet its compatibility guidelines and other requirements.

If Google were to include an iMessage like service in the  Android operating system, device manufacturers (at the demand of their operator customers) would simply strip the service out of their customer specific builds, as permitted under the Apache license — something they cannot do with Apple’s products.  Under Android’s Open Source Platform policy, manufacturers and operators have complete discretion regarding the services and features that are included in their commercial implementations of Android.  Samsung’s version of Android has a different dialer and messaging app when compared to other vendors such as Sony’s version of Android.

Another option is for Google to incorporate the Jibe Client & back-end components into Google Hangouts and make it a part of the Google Mobile Services.  If they do this, they will risk completely alienating the operators and other industry players who have already filed petitions and complaints to the US Federal Trade Commission, EU Competition bureau , Canadian Competition Bureau, Indian Competition Commission, Russian Competition Bureau that Google manipulates their power and dominance within the market to push their Services to be used by phone manufacturers.  They might do this by asking these manufacturers to sign a contract stating that they must pre-install specific Google Mobile Services, in order to get the latest version of the open-source software ‘Android’.

Fundamentally let’s not read more into the press release than is there.  Google’s announcement was that it was including RCS in Android, not Google Mobile Services.

RCS is a fundamental technology change related to more than just ‘messaging’……… it is not an App. The technology needs to be properly integrated with the operating system to function as intended. It is my assessment that they will include RCS in the Android Operating System, and not as a function in Google Hangouts. This announcement gives operators an easy way to ‘opt-in’ to deploying RCS features.

Brent Newsome- Vice President Business Development

Google acquires Jibe and its impact on RCS

Posted on: October 19th, 2015 by Mobile Communications

The announcement that Google is Committing to RCS support in Android and acquiring Jibe Mobile in the process has sparked a huge industry debate, both online and in industry working groups. The Rich Communications Services (RCS) standard has been considered as something to be avoided in the last 18 months by many in the telco world despite the fact that quietly……… in telco labs, hundreds of engineering teams, vendors and device manufacturers are moving towards the all IP mobile network of the future. This is a network where VoLTE, Voice over WiFi, SMS over IP, IP Messaging and WebRTC all co-exist because of the IMS & RCS standards. Exactly what was envisioned from the standard’s very inception!

RCS is, and always has been, a set of detailed technical standards which can be used to launch innovative new service offerings by operators. The first example given by technical working groups in 2010 was as an IP-based messaging platform to replace SMS. This use case was created as the technical members of the various working groups could foresee the rise of what we now call OTT competition.

In the process of advocating for this solution, RCS became relegated as a messaging solution, which wasn’t nearly as feature complete as what the OTTs were rolling out. In fact, RCS is part of a broad standards initiative which includes technologies such as Voice over LTE, Voice over WiFi, SMS over IP, Video over LTE, WebRTC, Operator APIs and IP messaging. Furthermore it is extensible and can include many of the monetization features of OTT’s such as sticker stores.

‘RCS’ is not a product it’s a set of technical standards that are building blocks for future services, and as such ‘RCS’ is far from just messaging.

The shock that Google, which recently launched its innovative Google Fi Service, would throw its lot in with the RCS crowd, seems to have been too much for some traditional naysers who have now become illogical in their commentary. It is more important than ever that the RCS ecosystem (operators, vendors, pundits) base their thinking on facts.

First and Foremost let’s remember that “Don’t be evil” was the formal corporate motto of Google, more recently replaced by “Do the right thing.” Google has a long tradition of working with Telco’s, and not against them. With Google Fi they are demonstrating that they want to be a model for innovative services from which the Telco world can learn. By including RCS in Android, (this is what Google is doing) – indicates that they are working with their Telco partners, not against them. Their words support this as well… just read their press release: “We’re excited to team up with mobile operators, device makers and the rest of the Android ecosystem to support RCS standards and help accelerate their deployment in a more consistent way”.

Brent Newsome- Vice President Business Development