Published: 10/08/2017
Author: Martha DeGrasse, RCR Wireless

Originally published in RCR Wireless on July 18, 2017 

Moving VoLTE to OTS hardware is a step toward virtual VoLTE

For mobile network operators, voice over LTE is one of the most promising use cases for network functions virtualization. VoLTE promises not only better quality voice calls, but also the many benefits of IP-based telephony, including number portability and easier integration with the IP-based systems that define most office work environments.

When carriers “dig into the ROI,” VoLTE makes sense for several reasons, according to Genband COO Steve Bruny. Speaking at the company’s annual Perspectives conference this year, Bruny said that in addition to freeing up spectrum for higher value use cases, VoLTE also yields coverage gains for the radio access network, as well as end user benefits like HD voice.

“Enhanced voice services along with advanced media processing and transcoding solutions that can separate and optimize media and signaling allow mobile service providers to deliver superior voice quality to their customers with increased access network capacity,” said analyst Greg Collins of Exact Ventures.

Genband offers enhanced voice services transcoding through its advanced media software, which the company recently made available as a virtual function on an off-the-shelf rack mount server.

Bruny said Verizon Wireless has deployed the world’s largest transcoding project using Genband’s technology. He said operators can deploy the technology using their existing infrastructure, off-the-shelf hardware, or a fully virtual solution running in the cloud.

So far, none of the 170 million mobile subscribers using VoLTE services enabled by Genband are using virtual VoLTE, but the migration of Genband’s advanced media software to OTS hardware is a big step in that direction. Sanjay Bhatia, VP of solutions marketing at Genband, said carrier customers are definitely interested in virtualizing the media functions that support VoLTE.

“There’s demand for virtualizing some of those media processing functions: media processing and transcoding and interworking for virtual IMS networks … we’re clearly seeing some demand there,” said Bhatia.

Bruny said Genband’s carrier customers have stopped asking questions about how virtualized functions work, and have started asking questions about how these functions can impact the bottom line.

“The business case is positive to move to enhanced voice services,” said Bruny. “We know a few or more operators are doing it. The ROI is positive. These carriers will have better radio coverage and better user experience, and others will follow them I think. … The leaders in our industry are well aware that we have to evolve to a distributed cloud architecture. The internet of everything is here to stay and virtualized networks are no longer going to be an afterthought.”

Genband is set to merge with Sonus, which offers VoLTE solutions of its own. The two companies are in a quiet period until later this summer and cannot discuss anything related to the merger until then.