Thursday, November 1, 2012

MetroPCS, Unified Communications and the Next Step

One of the truisms of modern telecom is that issues that seem unrelated or, at best, tenuously tied together suddenly show a deeper and fundamental connection. This connection generally was one envisioned by vendors and service providers long before others became aware.

This week, MetroPCS claims to be the first U.S. carrier to run Rich Communications Services on LTE. This eWeek story highlights the feature set of the Joyn service. They include content sharing, presence, ?enchanced chat? and others. Vendor BroadSoft is introducing similar capabilities.

The threads that are coming together in the MetroPCS announcement are LTE, unified communications and, at a higher level, the benefits of moving cellular communications to IP protocol.

To date, LTE services have been data-only. Voice remained on 3G or early platforms. A key to developers was to move voice to LTE. For one thing, it opened the spectrum formerly used by the 3G networks.

Perhaps even more importantly, voice over LTE (VoLTE) marks the introduction of the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS), which is an intimidating name for a fundamentally new approach that provisions voice simply as another application. It is possible to deploy it alongside ? and integrated with ? more specialized ancillary services. I discussed some of the issues related to IMS and VoLTE with Bill Hoffman, ABI Research?s principal analyst for mobile networks, in an interview posted last week.

This is what MetroPCS is announcing. Those ancillary services are, more or less, the unified communications platforms that vendors and service providers have been pushing for years. Indeed, for unified communications, LTE and VoLTE are just what the doctor ordered.


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