The commoditization of fixed broadband and the fast ramp up of mobile broadband are triggering a deep transformation era for telcos. With Google soon massively entering the unified communications market through Google Voice, Facebook now allowing its 350 millions members to make VoIP calls through 3rd parties applications and major handsets manufacturers launching their application stores to generate revenue on top of the broadband pipes, telcos must now react.
Telcos need not only defend their core communication business against attractive alternatives but also attempt to create innovative new revenue streams. For voice, optimizing their networks and retiring the old legacy switches, replacing them with high capacity equipments and launching VoIP services become must-dos to remain competitive. For new services, telcos have to find a way to optimize their developments and provisioning. But the threat to legacy revenue is still high and with LTE mass deployment approaching in the coming years, the situation will not improve, making the over the top (OTT) alternative services even more numerous and the dumb-pipe pitfall even harder to avoid.
The key for telcos will lie in their capacity to efficiently manage their core business while, at the same time, building up a "future-proof" network. This means a network based on a standard and open architecture able to launch telcos or 3rd parties' services under a heavy time-to-market pressure, able to handle the "anytime, any device" promise and able to welcome new types of value-added services beyond voice.
Simplify your network
As part of its ONE Core vision, and based on the IMS standard, Huawei has developed a simple and efficient solution to start facing the transformation challenges. The solution enables telcos to define a stepwise migration to a future-proof convergent architecture called IMS Centralized Service (ICS). The solution breaks the current core control silos (fixed, broadband, mobile) to deliver carrier-class services across any access network. ICS runs on a convergent core network and on unified application servers that are truly access agnostic.
The ICS target is clear and shared by most telcos in the industry especially since the One Voice (IMS based voice over LTE solution) initiative has been launched by the major Tier-1 players. But the main challenge for them is to find out the right migration scenario and pace towards this architecture. ICS can be implemented following a stepwise evolution, depending on each telco' s network situation. The migration strategy will generally go through an overlay phase, where the IMS control layer will interwork with the legacy circuit-switched networks through media gateway control functions (MGCFs), before entering a full convergent phase by directly connecting the different fixed and mobile access networks to the core through access gateways known as fixed access gateway control function (AGCF) and mobile AGCF (mAGCF).
Huawei' s unique solution is based on the smooth evolution both for the fixed and mobile softswitches to AGCF and mAGCF respectively by simple software upgrades. In both cases, the softswicthes and the access gateways to the IMS domain operate simultaneously.
For fixed networks, Huawei fixed NGN softswitch can co-exist with an AGCF function to handle the migration phase. Users can be smoothly moved from the fixed circuit-switched domain, with full PSTN services inheritance, to an IMS domain with exciting new IP-based services.
For mobile networks, Huawei mobile softswitch can first integrate an MGCF (during the overlay phase where IMS services are triggered by an anchoring gateway) and then become a mAGCF to reach the full ICS target phase.
ICS guarantees a good control not only between Softswitch and IMS, but also between circuit switch and packet switch elements such as MME. Several complex multi-domain flows such as voice continuity (SR-VCC: single radio voice call continuity) can be efficiently realized with a centralized architecture, rather than on disparate systems.
One of the Huawei unique highlights is the ONE Core vision to simplify operations. All the IMS core components are based on the same high density Advanced Telecommunications Computing Architecture (ATCA) hardware platform which welcomes 10 million IMS users in 5 cabinets with a "six nine (99.9999%)" reliability, low footprint and low energy consumption (1/5 compared with other platforms). All the core components are controlled by a unified network management system, and a centralized service provisioning gateway.
Expand your business
Once IMS is implemented at the control layer, launching new services and creating innovative business models becomes very easy thanks to the openness of the architecture: Either through dedicated applications servers, or through a service delivery platform (SDP)–the standard interface to the application layer, which highly facilitates innovation.
The most popular services developed by Huawei that can run on dedicated servers plugged on top of the core are: convergent IP Centrex, high definition video conference, unified communication solutions based on soft-clients and interactive IPTV.
All those services are characterized by their any-time, any-device capabilities. They can generate significant ARPU increases and also improve the end users' loyalty thanks to a consistent and seamless service experience across networks.
As end users' requirements are more and more unpredictable in the long term, telcos also need flexibility for their service development. To get this flexibility, the Huawei SDP solution is a complement to Huawei IMS portfolio. The SDP is a toolbox, seen from the core network as an open application server, which provides an execution environment for telcos and 3rd parties' new services. The SDP is interfaced with the IMS core and with the OSS/BSS systems and allows 3rd parties to use service enablers, to run and to expose applications to the end users. For instance, Huawei SDP is the solution for telcos who want to easily launch an application store.
This "IMS + SDP" architecture also enables telcos to tap into 2.0 business models through its openness and its exposure capabilities of APIs and user data.
First, APIs or service enablers such as communication, content delivery, authentication, billing, location and QoS management can easily be exposed to 3rd parties and monetized.
Second, user data can also be easily exposed. The Huawei unified subscriber center (USC) centralized user database enables operators to gather all types of information related to their customers, from their mobile locations to their browsing interests. This highly profiled user data becomes a key asset and can be monetized either for operators' own commercial needs or for advertisers, increasing the ads promotional impact and thus the revenue.
Secure your future
IMS is a standard, mature and future-proof solution in terms of access networks evolution and scalability.
For new access technologies such as FTTx, LTE, and WiMAX, end users will indeed simply get connected to the same core and to the same application servers experiencing seamless and consistent services. In particular, for voice over LTE, Huawei strongly supports the One Voice initiative launched by several Tier-1 operators to promote the use of IMS.
For scalability, Huawei' s choice of ATCA guarantees investment protection through re-using hardware for new components, and ensures high scalability by adding new ATCA blades and configuring IMS elements on them without any service interruption.
Huawei is also a safe choice in terms of experience for large scale IMS deployments with a wide diversity of network situations. Major Tier-1 incumbent operators are relying on Huawei' s solution for PSTN renewal and for the launch of a voice over broadband service. The business case is generally based both on the efficiency of the network solution from a TCO perspective and on new revenue generation through high ARPU services and innovative 2.0 business models. Several integrated operators, coming from the mobile business, are currently leveraging on their mobile customer bases and on Huawei IMS to offer convergent services like Centrex or Conferencing to their corporate markets. A few major cable operators have chosen Huawei IMS to solve the voice legacy complexity and are considering IMS architecture to launch multimedia services.
The time for transformation has come for telcos. Whether their objective is to simplify their network and decrease their TCO or to expand their business and generate new profits, Huawei IMS is the simple solution to start transforming their business.