Slovakia: the Latest Country to go All-IP

December 6th saw the launch of interconnected Advanced Communications in Slovakia. Following coordination and testing by the GSMA, SlovakTelecom and Orange Slovensko are the latest operators to press ahead with all-IP interconnection which, under the auspices of the GSMA’s Network 2020 programme, promises to bring integrated and enhanced communications to more than a billion users by 2017.

Research by GSMA Intelligence shows that SlovakTelecom and Orange Slovensko together held nearly 71% market share in Slovakia as of Q3 2016. The rollout in Slovakia marks just the latest milestone in what has become a clear trend towards take-up of the technology worldwide.

All-IP Advanced Communications are the solution to what has, until recently, been a disparity between online and mobile services. Where consumers had previously needed to download a separate application to make use of innovations like pre-calling, group chat or real-time file-sharing, these are now increasingly available as native capabilities on a user’s device. The launch of Interconnect in Slovakia allows users to chat, group chat and file share, and will be updated with more capabilities and become completely native in the near future. The GSMA aims to bring that in-built support to 60% of all new smartphone handsets by next year.

The guiding principle here is of integration: making the user experience more seamless, even as communications become more sophisticated. Rather than relying on an ever-increasing proliferation of apps and profiles, users can now access the latest capabilities through a single interface, thanks to the GSMA’s Universal Profile. Now backed by 47 network operators and 12 handset manufacturers – together accounting for a subscriber base of 4.7 billion people worldwide, and more than 150 devices – Universal Profile forms the new benchmark in interoperability.

The specification constitutes an agreed infrastructure through which participating service providers can operate, guaranteeing compatibility, and negating the present need to identify and collect the applications being used by those the consumer wishes to communicate with. From early 2017 this watershed solution will be embedded as standard in the Android OS, just as SMS is today.

The average user spends around twenty-three and a half minutes on Android messaging apps, and last year the world’s 2.5 billion users of OTT apps were responsible for revenues of around $3 million dollars per hour. The opportunity here is clear: in research conducted by the GSMA, 89% of respondents said they believed the Advanced Messaging features made possible by Universal Profile were ‘unique’.  Cutting-edge capabilities such as seamless group chats, HD-voice calls, voice-controlled file-sharing, and the ability to tell someone why you are calling before the call starts are now available simply through something almost everyone has: a phone number. The solution presents a win-win, therefore, for operators and consumers like – MNOs retain their SMS subscriber base, and users can dispense with the fragmentation of platforms that presently characterises the market.

With greater efficiency comes great opportunity: participating MNOs will enjoy a clear route to customer attraction and retention; OEMs can eliminate the expense and complexity of developing bespoke handsets, and consumers can look forward to the advent of ‘conversational commerce’. Whether booking a restaurant, ordering a taxi, checking the weather, or simply keeping in touch with loved ones, users are now in a position to do it all through a single platform. Few turn down the chance to save time and energy on such practicalities; the coming year promises to be an exciting one for all involved in the ongoing roll-out of Advanced Communications.