This question has taken me back a few years when operators considered introducing Rich Communication Services (RCS) and the “to RCS or to OTT” question was raised as well. The answer is already known; RCS was proven to be a failure as users adopted OTT services instead. Operators have lost billions of dollars since the introduction of OTT services.
Although more than 300 mobile operators have already introduced LTE networks, only a few of them have introduced VoLTE. The reasons include significant technical challenges such as guaranteeing quality of service and very high costs.
VoLTE aims to guarantee HD voice when both ends are on the service, optimize networks and best utilize the frequencies, save battery consumption of the devices and more. Analysts have found that VoLTE can be a nice to have service but it neither increases the ARPU in the short term nor resolves the operator’s major concerns (such as declining roaming revenues or limited service coverage in rural areas, high towers and indoors) in the long term.
While operators are looking for a long term solution, there is a serious need to overcome these challenges now before it is too late. VoWifi has been recently introduced and might serve as a long term solution but it is not relevant for the immediate future as only a few mobile devices currently offer this capability. In addition, the technical challenges involved ensure that it’s a long way off until it is fully adopted.
So, is there a less costly, less complicated and much faster solution that overcome these challenges for mobile operators?
The answer is….. Yes. A mobile OTT communications solution consisting of mobile apps and backend servers, costs only a fraction of the invested capital in the new technologies, is fully deployed and operational in few months compared to years and so simple that it requires only the installation of an app by the customer would be a solution.
I have listed some of the challenges and the ways to overcome them by mobile OTT solutions.
The major concerns of mobile operators
Mobile operators have enjoyed high revenues in the past. Today they are facing serious threats from opportunistic OTTs who offer alternative services for little or no cost, causing a sharp decline in their roaming revenues. Limited service coverage in rural areas and high towers is still a concern, as this causes dissatisfaction and disruption of service.
Defending Roaming Revenues Strategies
In recent years, mobile operators have retaliated by adopting VoIP technology. Some have offered roaming VoIP plans utilizing available free Wi-Fi networks while other operators have offered bundled packages of GSM & VoIP over Wi-Fi. This solution was good but not good enough, neither for the operators who couldn’t guarantee high quality service due to the unpredictability of non-controlled Wi-Fi connections, nor for the roaming subscribers who had to search for available open Wi-Fi networks in certain areas and pay high prices due to the bundled high price of GSM roaming costs.
Nowadays, data roaming prices are low, data connectivity is available almost everywhere and operators have upgraded their data networks to support higher capacities. Operators are able to guarantee a higher quality of voice service at low prices, while their customers maintain their same cellular number when using the OTT communications apps.
AudioCodes’ MobilityPlus, ALL IP OTT communications solutions, which consist of white label mobile applications and backend servers, enable operators to offer low cost, yet profitable HD voice, video and messaging over IP services utilizing roaming data networks (3G, 4G, LTE). This keeps their subscribers using their cellular numbers over IP networks. By doing this, operators promote a new bundle of roaming data and VoIP services. Subscribers who purchase cellular roaming data will have access to VoIP service as well, a service which increases subscriber loyalty.
Improving Service Coverage
Mobile operators are technically challenged, however, to increase service coverage in areas with limited coverage such as rural areas, high towers and indoors. Subscribers in these areas report a high rate of unsuccessful calls and disrupted service causing them to consider alternative solutions which in turn leads to a decrease in communication services revenues.
With the increase of Wi-Fi network availability readily found in these areas, customers receive calls and send texts over existing home and office Wi-Fi networks rather than the operator’s mobile network that is limited or does not exist.
AudioCodes’ MobilityPLUS OTT app supports Wi-Fi calling as a preloaded app within the subscribers’ smartphone (on Android smartphones) or as an OTT app that keeps the subscriber using his mobile number. MobilityPLUS enhances service coverage and guarantees HD voice quality when participants are on Wi-Fi networks.
Continuous Service Connectivity Mobile operators who have adopted VoIP technologies to overcome today’s challenges need to address the lack of continuous service connectivity when subscribers move between Wi-Fi and data networks and vice versa. Until now, subscribers who were on a VoIP call over Wi-Fi could not move to a data network (3G/4G) without having the call dropped. In many cases, the user disconnected and redialled when moving to another network. Not Anymore. AudioCodes’ MobilityPLUS assures mobility with continuous connectivity, guaranteeing a seamless handover between Wi-Fi to 3G/4G and vice versa. The solution combines AudioCodes’ MobilityPLUS Mobile OTT and Mediant SBC solutions, leveraging unique SBC capabilities and leading mobile VoIP technology.