South Korea’s KT Corporation and Japan’s NTT DOCOMO have become the first network operators in the world to offer their customers a bilateral Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) roaming service. This will mean that customers of either network will have access to high quality, low-latency voice and video calls as well as super-fast data services domestically as well as internationally between Japan and South Korea. Previously, it has only been possible to do this unilaterally, for example with only one country being able to roam in the other as illustrated by LG Uplus’ recent VoLTE roaming deal with Japanese operator KDDI. In the future, both operators expect to expand their VoLTE service offering to other countries through partnerships and cooperation with other operators.
VoLTE is an all-IP technology that integrates with enhanced calling features on a user’s smartphone, providing a seamless and simple calling experience. It’s the first step to offering a comprehensive suite of IP communications services such as HD Voice, VoLTE, ViLTE (Video-over-LTE), VoWiFI (Voice-over-WiFi) and RCS (Rich Communications Suite) which is enhanced further by broad-scale interoperability and the interconnection of networks. Operators must collaborate with network vendors, device manufacturers and other stakeholders to deliver an interconnected all-IP network that will give consumers richer, deeper mobile experiences. Only operators are in a position to offer consumers the level of security, quality and level of service they expect.
The native integration of IP communications in smartphones is also incredibly important to deliver a seamless, out-of-box experience. As part of the VoLTE announcement, NTT DOCOMO announced the release of nine new VoLTE-compatible smartphones, adding to the strong base of native devices that are already available in the global market today. GSMA Intelligence estimates that VoLTE-capable handsets will rise to between 65 and 85 per cent by 2020.
Both KT and NTT DOCOMO have incorporated S8 Home Routed (S8HR) architecture into their VoLTE roaming service. Based on 3GPP standards, S8 HR enables the fast commercialisation of VoLTE for high-definition, high-quality voice and video roaming services. The GSMA recently completed a trial on VoLTE roaming with KT and NTT DOCOMO, as well as China Mobile, KPN, SK Telecom and Verizon Wireless to assess the technical feasibility of a number of different VoLTE roaming models for use around the world. In addition to S8HR, the testing also included Local Break Out Visited Network Routing (LBO VR), which refers to the local provision of data services by a visited network. Both will have a significant impact on the way VoLTE roaming is conducted in the future.
GSMA Network 2020 Programme
The GSMA’s Network 2020 programme is working with the mobile industry to deliver a collaborative, coordinated way of accelerating the development of all-IP mobile communications. The programme is designed to help mobile network operators move to an all-IP world and help them deliver global interconnected all-IP communications services to consumers such as VoLTE, ViLTE, VoWiFi and RCS. The programme is already helping operators from around the world to migrate from circuit-switched technology to an all-IP infrastructure whilst helping them to maintain service continuity.
To find out more about the GSMA’s Network 2020 programme, go to www.gsma.com/network2020.