Kuwait VoLTE Interconnect CTO Q&A

The VoLTE (Voice over LTE) interconnection is the first in Kuwait and the first in the Mena region.

The decision to interconnect was taken to maximise customer experience in Kuwait and the operators will be launching the interconnected service in March 2017.

We spoke to CTOs Zaraar Khan from Viva and Nabeel Mohammad from Zain to gain some insight into how the interconnection worked and to understand what some of the key benefits were:

What benefits does the interconnection offer to Viva and Zain?
[VIVA]: VIVA –has been named as the “Best Telecommunications Company of the year, Kuwait 2016” for striving to adopt latest technology- we are proud to be a market leader and to introduce VoLTE interconnection with Zain. Through this technology, VIVA will maintain its position as the countries fastest-growing, most developed telecom operator and build on this deployment to offer new VoLTE, voice and data convergence services to it’s subscribers. Technically, it saves resource consumption for Gateway Mobile Switching Centre (GMSC), by withdrawing the circuit switched technology and moving to the “ALL- IP” future technology. It will deliver higher quality HD voice calls and provide faster connection speeds to subscribers.

[Zain]: The interconnection will introduce new high-quality and cost efficient direct IMS-to-IMS interconnect. This means it will avoid the need to break-out the call from the IMS domain to the CS domain to carry the calls on existing legacy interfaces to reach local operators. This will maintain the high quality of service, customer experience offered in the IMS domain, and as traffic grows the new IP interfaces are more cost efficient to maintain and expand.

Why has Viva/Zain decided to interconnect this voice service now?

[VIVA]: Having full GSMA support, the two operators jointly have agreed to release VoLTE interconnection launch news during February as this month holds a special position in Kuwaitis hearts. This is always driven by the fact that we want to give more to our customers and enhance their experience by launching the best and latest technologies to them.
[Zain]: We decided to implement the new interconnect interfaces with full alignment with GSMA standards, utilizing their support, to improve our customer’s experience.

How will it improve the voice services consumers can already access?

[VIVA]: VIVA VoLTE subscribers will instantly feel the difference, considering the high definition call quality and the rapid call establishment time.   It reduces the codec transformation between AMR-WB and AMR-NB and gets faster call setup.

[Zain]: It will ensure high quality end-to-end HD Voice experience to our customers, with total independence from legacy systems.

What are the key benefits this interconnection will offer to customers?

[VIVA]: Through VoLTE interconnection, VIVA offers to its subscribers the pleasure of making HD Voice calls locally and look forward to expanding this to other local networks.
[Zain] Better customer experience with higher quality of voice and video services.

What are the main challenges?

[VIVA]: The main challenges for us are to make sure that we provide the latest technologies for a better customer experience and differentiate the quality of services. Nonetheless, the technical challenge requires a huge effort in meeting the launch dates. Challenges are as follows:-

  • The Signalling protocol shifting from SS7 to SIP and customizations required to adapt with live infrastructure.
  • Generation of new Interconnect CDRs and its related mediation and customization required for processing.
  • Deployment of new interfaces between ENUM and MNP data base to support VoLTE interconnect calls for ported subs.

[Zain]: We felt the main challenge was implementing the new interconnect from the GSMA Interconnect Standards document (IR.95) into actual interfaces on existing infrastructure.
What would be their three main lessons learned from the interconnect experience?

1 – Getting this IPSec tunnel functional and troubleshooting call failures due to IPSec tunnel configuration on its related nodes like firewall and SBC. 2- Deployment of flexible routing technique when processing VoLTE calls from different operators.
3 – Deployment of the new interface between ENUM and MNP database.

1 – Implementing the new interconnect with IP Security (IPSec).
2 – Flexibility of site port redundancy, with minimal resources.
3 – Adaptability of Zain infrastructure to accommodate the new interconnects.

What is the customer feedback regarding the HD voice services?

[VIVA]: We’ve observed an impressive positive feedback, where we had a high demand on questions related to activating the service & steps to do the same. Customers actually exerted the effort to activate it & tested the service in a short time. Once the service & setting were completed, the customers experience a considerable improvement in call clarity, faster call setup time & others reported an increase in battery live compered to non-VoLTE subscribers. We are proud of the customers reaction to such technologies that drive us to look for more in the future.

[Zain] The feedback from implementation team and from customers is very positive, with clearly noticeable improvement in the HD voice services.

What plans do you have to improve this service further in the future? What can customers expect?

[VIVA]: Our strategy is to give more to our customers, so we are always looking for enhancement of current propositions and technologies or even looking for totally new technologies. Following this deployment, VIVA promises its subscribers to expand VoLTE interconnection both locally and internationally, as well as build on this deployment to offer new VoLTE voice and data convergence service.

[Zain] We plan to extend the new high quality customer experience locally and internationally, beginning with the other local operators in Kuwait.