As MNOs complete LTE rollouts globally, the majority of carriers are turning their attention to Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and the services enabled by the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) infrastructure, such as Rich Communications Services (RCS). MNOs in APAC and North America have lead VoLTE deployments, with 11 carriers launching VoLTE service in APAC and 4 in North America, though several carriers in EMEA and a handful of LATAM carriers have initiated testing and deployment.
The below visualization shows the status of various service provider VoLTE deployment initiatives globally:
While little debate remains over the cost advantages of migrating voice from circuit-switched services over legacy 2G and 3G networks to IP-based LTE voice – notably, savings from decommissioning legacy infrastructure and the ability to re-farm spectrum for use in LTE networks – carriers continue to explore opportunities to generate direct revenue from VoLTE and other IMS-enabled services. Increased voice call quality will no doubt resonate with subscribers, particularly in the commercial segment, where HD voice and QoS may become key differentiators. Beyond direct revenue, VoLTE’s impact on customer experience may have a positive impact on churn, though in markets like the US, where 3 of the top 4 carriers have launched VoLTE, improved voice quality will become table stakes.
The ability to leverage IMS Core infrastructure to offer RCS represents the most promising revenue opportunity presented by VoLTE implementation. RCS represents the carrier response to Over-the-Top (OTT) services and will enable carriers to regain some control over higher value voice and messaging functions. Carriers will integrate components of RCS into Unified Communications (UC) offerings, increasing the value of these UC services for commercial customers, for whom demand is less price elastic than in the consumer segment. QoS capabilities will enable carriers to package SLAs with RCS and associated UC offerings. For now, MNOs will continue to develop go-to-market strategies while working to solve kinks in VoLTE functionality at scale.