Summer of Dragons

“How 5G deployments helped me detox from Game of Thrones”

By Bill Welch, Sr Product Manager, Mobile Solutions and Innovation

Back in the spring, I was suffering from a serious case of Game of Thrones withdrawal after binge watching all eight seasons and 73 episodes in a short period of time. My daily conversations got intertwined with Game of Thrones themes with anyone who would listen. I was desperate for more and I needed something to distract me.

As luck would have it, large scale commercial deployments of 5G got started in the spring. The three South Korean operators launched commercial services on the same day, April 4th. They quickly grew their 5G subscribers from 1 million in just under 70 days, to 2 million 58 days later, and then 3 million 46 days after that. South Korea quick converted 5% of their subscribers over to 5G service in under 5 months.

The rest of the world was also very active during the summer with 5G deployments. With new commercial 5G networks popping up every day, by the end of September there were thirty-five 5G commercial networks and we only started the year with five.

In April, May, June, July, and August things took off with a number of networks and countries bringing 5G to consumers. Vodafone was the most active by lighting up 5G in 7 countries in the Middle East and Europe. By the end of the summer all continents around the globe were represented with 5G networks in Australia, South Africa, and Uruguay in South America. Each day I looked forward to seeing more and more activity and deployments. I was finally able to clear my head of my Game of Thrones obsession and I could focus on tracking 5G and its daily developments.

So what about the “Summer of Dragons”? Watch the video below of SK Telecom using a dragon as part of its marketing of their 5G launch. SK Telecom used 5G and augmented reality (AR) technology along with a dragon to kick-off baseball season in South Korea. My Game of Thrones compulsion came full circle and crashed back toward me. No matter what topic I investigated it all came back to the epic struggle between good and evil. Kings, queens, dragons, and Whitewalkers littered my thoughts. I couldn’t escape…

Is the decommissioning of 2G and 3G networks the Whitewalkers in a 5G world? Will the end of circuit switch voice mean that “winter is coming” to voice communications? Let’s leave that topic for another episode of my Game of Thrones flashbacks…

Takeaways from VoLTE and 5G Roaming session at WAS#9

WAS9 RoundtableOur 3rd VoLTE Roaming and 5G Breakfast Roundtable was held in at WAS #9 in Kuala Lumpur on April 8, 2019. The session discussions and interactions made clear that both VoLTE Roaming and 5G are key hot topics that we will continue to explore and measure progress over the upcoming months.

The following are some key takeaways from the session:

VoLTE Roaming

  • The commercial issues are largely solved, now there are  mainly technical issues to address.
  • The main commercial issue now is to grow the list of VoLTE roaming partners urgently.
  • Solving technical challenges is very incremental: solve one and another appears, mainly revolving around lots of small compatibility issues between network, IMS core, handsets and OS.

5G Roaming

  • A single global solution for 5G roaming will be unlikely as different use cases need different solutions.
  • Local breakout will probably be necessary based on the specific use case.
  • Mass market applications will be mainly streaming (enriched video) and IoT with specific security requirements.
  • Security will be a huge issue due to the IoT involvement.
  • Should there a an independent operator alliance?

Session Focus & Actions

  • There was consensus to stick with the dual-track agenda on VoLTE Roaming and 5G Roaming.
  • Idea for next time: invite an operator to zoom in on a specific experience to share with the community. Who volunteers?

 SAVE THE DATE

4th VoLTE and 5G Roaming Breakfast Session

WAS#10  |  Valencia, Spain  |  Monday, October 28th, 7:45 AM

The Need for an Open and Neutral Global VoLTE Roaming Ecosystem

iBASIS_network_map

In the past few months, VoLTE roaming activity level have surged mainly due to operators that rely on 4G for voice roaming and can’t do voice roaming on 3G, like CDMA operators and 4G only greenfield operators. Moving to an all-IP 4G infrastructure is a very challenging process. Learning from field experiences and sharing knowledge is essential to avoid mistakes and ensure a smooth migration.

During the most recent GSMA WAS#7 in Dubai, iBASIS hosted the first VoLTE Roaming Greenfield Round Table, which focused on facilitating and encouraging an open and neutral knowledge sharing discussion on VoLTE.

During this session many topics around the implementation and commercialization of VoLTE arose including:S8HR architecture becoming the preferred roaming model; quality, lawful intercept; and handset interoperability. It also became clear that VoLTE provides interesting opportunities for MNOs on inbound roaming and for 2018, with many participants expressing their ambition to implement multiple VoLTE roaming partners.

Although  the value of the benefits that come along with VoLTE, like low latency, HD quality and consequently improved user experience, are recognized,  the need to work on appropriate methods and models is now critical to accelerate revenue opportunities more quickly and make sure to monetize VoLTE investments. That’s also where a multi-service IPX network like the one iBASIS deployed can help facilitate and accelerate commercialization.

iBASIS is playing a very active part in International VoLTE roll out and in facilitating an open and neutral discussion that will accelerate worldwide VoLTE deployment. Through our latest IPX network implementation and VoLTE deployments, iBASIS is committed to ensuring that any VoLTE roll-out scenario is fully enabled, be it interworking or roaming with both architectures LBO and S8HR.

If you are interested in knowing more about the VoLTE Roaming Greenfield initiative hosted by iBASIS and KPN and would like to share your own experience with other members please email me at khol@ibasis.net.

What are Your Top Requirements for IPX Networks?

Roaming Consulting Company, ROCCO, recently asked this question as part of their 2017 survey to rate IPX vendor performance. The report shows that the top 3 requirements are; VoLTE Readiness, LTE Roaming Reach, and Troubleshooting response time.

iBasis is focusing on meeting your needs: we successfully interconnected and carried commercial international VoLTE traffic. We are ready to deploy and support all roaming models. Our reach has increased exponentially and now covers more than 500 LTE Destinations in 170 countries.  Moreover, our award-winning data analytics cloud platform is constantly evolving to troubleshoot all types of traffic ensuring fast resolution. 

iBasis is honored to be recognized as a top tier one provider ranking first in the General Rating portion of the ROCCO report. With all the turmoil in the roaming market, our customers need a partner that is extremely flexible technically, operationally and commercially.

Our investments in capacity, quality, analytics and IoT capabilities, enable us to leverage IPX opportunities as Roam Like Home and IoT proliferates. We are also able to provide the flexibility you’re looking for with our combined offering of Voice, Roaming and IoT, which is bringing new revenues.

We thank you for the great feedback we received through this report.  We are pleased that the results confirm we are on the right track to meet our commitment to provide our customers the Partnership, Adaptability, Excellence – to help you succeed.

VoLTE of People

The fifth generation (5G)
Today, 5G is the new buzzword. This fifth generation of mobile networks will offer a wide array of considerable improvements compared to 4G. Think of the capacity it will be able to hold, such as streaming live television via 5G home internet or data to and from autonomous (“driverless”) cars. The latter may need 5G to really kick into action. In addition to much higher data rates, more efficiency and less latency, an important aspect of 5G is that it is capable of supporting a whole new world – one where all types of devices are able to communicate with each other. This is also referred to as The Internet of Things (IoT) in which everything (humans and machines) is connected.

The fourth generation (4G)
Notwithstanding the promising outlook of 5G, we already have 4G/LTE, which has many benefits. As an example, LTE offers a radical change in how voice is treated over the mobile network: Voice over LTE (VoLTE). VoLTE brings faster call set-up time and much better voice quality. According to the GSMA, in October 2016, 91 mobile operators introduced VoLTE in their network and another operator is added to that list every week, on average. South Korea has the honor of being the first country in the world to introduce VoLTE. In 2012, three Korean mobile operators provided this enhanced voice service to their mobile subscribers.

A Connected World
Part of the 5G buzz is this notion of a connected world. This makes me think about the world of today in which we already have a large number of existing VoLTE networks, though not connected to each other. Why do mobile operators introduce VoLTE to their domestic network but withhold from their customers the advantages of VoLTE on a global scale? Why do they spend time and money on introducing VoLTE, but then cease to invest in the interconnection for VoLTE? VoLTE roaming may be an often-discussed topic, but VoLTE interworking is not yet high on the MNO list of priorities. A lack of additional revenue generation by VoLTE interworking is often heard as a possible reason for inhibiting this development. This may be true, but OTT providers do not wait; they continue to enhance and market their voice applications to present a compelling alternative that challenges the incumbent providers. VoLTE offers unique benefits, especially with its effectiveness (both in terms of cost and set-up time), and seamless, quaranteed quality.

With VoLTE interworking, directly or via an IPX hub, mobile operators can benefit from end-to-end HD voice quality and a global VoLTE reach in a cost-effective manner. In contrast to OTT players that provide a free calling app only within their own domain (“walled gardens”), the call quality with VoLTE interworking crosses network boundaries and helps MNOs distinguish themselves from OTT players. In South Korea, all of the country’s VoLTE-enabled subscribers are now able to make VoLTE calls across different mobile networks, thereby enjoying all the benefits that VoLTE has to offer.

What’s the Next Thing?
The popular answer is the Internet of Things, of course, in which all manner of devices ride the best possible network connections, and yes, that’s massive. But, we’re really not done connecting people in the best possible way, yet. So, in my view, the “next thing” is for other MNO’s to follow South Korea’s example in interconnection. Then the world will move from a situation with a few select interconnected VoLTE networks, to one with ubiquitous VoLTE service, a VoLTE of People (no doubt talking about the Internet of Things)! As an experienced voice and IPX provider, iBasis has the experience to support you in creating this connected VoLTE world. Learn more here.

How Is VoLTE Like An Election?

When it comes to decision-making, as a general rule, people like to be presented with options. That’s certainly true in political elections. Sometimes the differences between options is very clear and it’s easy to express a preference. Other times, there are trade-offs and the choice is more difficult.  One has to carefully evaluate the potential long-term impacts of either choice. This is where the similarity with VoLTE, and specifically VoLTE roaming comes in.

Voting for International VoLTE
A logical next step for a mobile operator, after having launched VoLTE domestically, is to select the method for providing international VoLTE roaming to its subscribers. The number of domestic VoLTE networks is growing at the rate of about one launch per week. So inevitably, a very large number of operators will need to make a choice for a VoLTE roaming method, and possibly struggle with the available alternatives.

VoLTE Implementations

The number of operators with VoLTE launched has grown exponentially in the past few years, starting with 3 in December 2012, to 82 in August 2016 (source: GSMA).

Available Choices for VoLTE Roaming
Today, operators can provide roaming with a fallback to 3G roaming. However, if an MNO wants to reap the benefits of VoLTE to its full extent, the 4G roaming methods as defined by GSMA – S8 Home Routed (S8HR) and Local Break-Out (LBO) – are the future-proof way forward. But, like opposing candidates in an election race, they come with trade-offs.

S8HR is gaining traction in the market, due to its simplicity and potential for shorter time-to-market.

One result of S8HR is the transition from voice roaming minutes to data roaming packets. This change brings along a drop in revenues for the visited network, as the gain in data roaming revenues doesn’t compensate for the loss in voice roaming revenues. This effect may sound attractive for the home network operator, as S8HR will lower its roaming costs, but the flip side is that the wholesale department of this home network operator will lose mobile terminating revenues.

The S8HR voice minutes are now treated as data. They are transported back to the home network, bypassing the wholesale/carrier department of the operator, and revenue is no longer generated with the termination of voice into the home network. Depending on the specific situation of the mobile operator – whether more inbound or outbound roaming – S8HR can also make the net spend less favorable.

Stay Tuned!
Watch this space for more to come on the tradeoffs of LBO.