Defining the future with VoLTE and VoWiFi roaming

Interview with Jay Jayasimha by Isabelle Paradis, President at Hot Telecom

Cataleya is, in my opinion, a dark horse in the carrier vendor space. A new kid on the block, having been formed only 2 years ago, it is already making its mark in the industry. Its next generation Session Border Controller (SBC) called Orchid One, already supports real-time fraud management and big data analytics, dynamic signalling, seamless SIP compatibility and last but not least, is VoLTE and VoWiFi ready. But more is to come and carriers around the world are increasingly taking on the future through Cataleya’s solution.

I recently had the chance to talk with Jay Jayasimha, a telecom visionary and CEO at Cataleya, to find out his views on the future of our industry, with its challenges and opportunities. We also discussed how VoWiFi may revolutionize the industry, as we know it and finally, how the company sees its evolving role to help carriers future-proof their business.


What do you think are some of the key challenges that telecom operators are facing at the moment in terms of technology?

As smartphones are dominating the marketplace, subscribers are increasingly demanding high quality, rich content services and are expecting video and mash-up services as table stakes. Unfortunately, mobile operators’ legacy TDM infrastructure is really only optimized to support voice and SMS and these operators are therefore now migrating towards a new type of IP infrastructure that can enable these evolved services. However, this migration comes with associated challenges.

TDM by definition is very reliable, predictable, high quality and secure, but an IP infrastructure is none of the above. So the challenge is for operators to meet the evolving high quality demands from their subscribers, while rolling-out these new advanced services over an IP network. Regrettably, the IP network does not work as is and needs to be tamed and this is where a lot of the innovations need to come into place.

For example, mobile operators are busy implementing LTE networks, but voice over LTE is very complex and is therefore a key challenge that needs to be addressed. Operators and vendors have to develop the necessary technology and solutions that will make VoLTE a reality. This takes time, and end-to-end VoLTE crossing carrier borders is therefore not currently a reality in most cases.

By definition, LTE is end-to-end IP, but today due to the inability of the networks to support interconnected VoLTE, the voice traffic still falls back to 3G infrastructures in large parts. As a consequence, for a long time to come, operators will be forced to maintain two networks to support voice. This is where some of the IP innovations will come into play, so that operators can migrate voice to 4G and to an end-to-end IP environment swiftly, to ultimately be able to retire their 3G and 2.5G infrastructure and re-farm the spectrum.



Do you think the OTT challenge can still be tackled, or is it too late?

With the proliferation of Skype, Viber and WhatsApp in the voice and messaging business, subscribers now have a parallel universe to bring their voice needs into. As we all know, this has resulted in a massive loss of minutes for the traditional operators. This is even more acute in the roaming world, where subscribers turn-off their roaming completely when in a WiFi-enabled zone. As a result, roaming revenue is completely lost. What is surprising, is that many operators are not even considering offering VoWiFi to their subscribers to compete with the OTTs and gain back some of their lost roaming traffic, because they do not see the revenue associated to this.

In my opinion, the roaming revenue train has already left and gone to the OTT players. So I do not think operators should even worry about this loss of roaming revenue. They should instead think of revolutionizing roaming completely, using VoWiFi. Because if they are able to offer customers a simple, straight forward and transparent roaming solution, customers will choose that first instead of going to OTTs.

One of the benefits for mobile operators to offer VoWiFi roaming is in part to keep the customer on their network, both while he is in his home or in the visited country, something that does not exist now. At the end of the day, VoWiFi is a much simpler, lower cost solution to offer roaming to their end users, while ensuring high quality.



What role, if any, could wholesalers and IPX providers play in VoWiFi roaming?

Carriers should focus on supporting VoWiFi as a service in the roaming environment and creating the right commercial model, in conjunction with the mobile operators, to win this traffic back.

Many mobile operators are in-country based and do not have any visibility outside of their home network. Wholesalers and IPX providers on the other hand have global visibility and connectivity with many mobile operators and ISPs and are therefore perfectly positioned as key partners to enable global VoWiFi roaming.

They can easily implement VoWiFi infrastructure in their global wholesale network to enhance the capabilities and service quality of mobile operators who are more locally based. This could be a very big play for wholesalers.



What role is Cataleya playing in the current industry IP revolution?

Our main goal is to make IP networks as high quality and as predictable, reliable and secure as any TDM network. As mentioned earlier, one of the key issues is the adoption of IP infrastructure into the operators’ networks to be able to offer complex multi-media type services as cost effectively as possible. The main role of Cataleya is therefore to enable this migration from legacy to all-IP. This is a fundamental area of innovation that Cataleya is bringing.

We uncovered many issues while developing our solution and are now able to offer comprehensive real-time visibility on the IP network utilisation, subscriber experience and quality. We were then able to add real-time fraud management packages on top of these visibility and analytics tools.

The next application we have added on our Session Border Controller (SBC), called Orchid One, is the support of VoWiFi. We have a partnership in place with a VoWiFi provider to offer an end-to-end solution and are presently engaging in trials with customers to help them support this feature.


Can you tell me a bit more about your capabilities in supporting VoWiFi?

The role of Orchid One in VoWiFi is to provide the connectivity between the client that uses the native features of the phone, and the virtual mobile core, where the VoWiFi application resides.

The benefit of using Orchid One in VoWiFi is threefold.

Firstly, due to our strategic position between the user, the WiFi Hot spot and the VoWiFi application, we have access to valuable information on a call-by-call basis and in real-time. For example, we are able to monitor the call quality and congestion levels of the hot spot (how it is behaving, how many subscribers are on it, is it overloaded or under-utilized, etc…). We can then provide this intelligence to the VoWiFi application pro-actively, and enable it to take the decision to move the user from WiFi to mobile and vice versa, in order to ensure high quality of experience. This is a great improvement to what exists today in terms of quality management over WiFi where decisions are not taken in real-time. This is one of our differentiators that stems from the basic analytics framework that we have.

The second advantage is that we can provide the necessary real-time analytics and the congestion level measurements that would enable a 3GPP node, and consequently the phone itself, to determine if the handset should go onto WiFi or not, based on quality and availability. We are working with 3GPP on this feature to be able to deliver it in 2016. This information could also be used by WiFi hot spots to help them dimension their networks and identify where there are congestion points or quality issues.

Finally, we have the capability to provide local voice breakout in VoWiFi and this is a significant advantage to keep the service quality and routing efficiency as high as possible.



What is on Cataleya’s road map over the next 2 to 3 years to help international carriers support the IP evolution?

The analytics that Orchid One is generating has created a really interesting pool of data for us when it comes to the quality of interconnects. We provide a lot of this information in our real-time dashboards. From there, one of the things we invested in is to provide a backend big data analytics platform.

We will have two levels of analytics: one is aimed at the operation of the network and services, looking at the performance of the network, of the interconnects and the quality. The other one is aimed at the management, with business reports that show operators how much money they are making or losing with a specific interconnect and why. We are therefore giving them a clear picture of how their business is doing. This feature will be made available in April 2016.

IoT is another area where we are undertaking a lot of research and we are expecting that by the third quarter of 2016 we will produce some really concrete IoT use cases aimed at the fixed and mobile operators and carriers. This will be based on the actionable information we are gathering through our solution and/or through third parties.

We are also working on proofs of concept in media and content in cooperation with IPX providers using our Orchid One platform. Some of the concepts we are working on aim at optimizing the routing of the media to ensure optimal quality and efficiency.

We will also have an Network Function Virtualization (NFV) version of our Orchid One that will be launched in April 2016. We will offer both a software and virtualized version and will include some accelerators for virtualization into our solution going forward.

Finally, we are working on supporting VoLTE interoperability between operators and networks, which will enable operators to offer a comprehensive end-to-end VoLTE solution. This is achieved through the adaptation of different SIP signalling. This will enable IPX providers to take VoLTE traffic and to terminate it to any other types of networks (simple SIP networks, IMS networks, VoLTE networks, etc…) by adapting the signalling and keeping the call continuity. We are presently in the trial phase for this feature.

We see Orchid One and our big data platform as a living and breathing organism. We will therefore continue to work with operators and carriers to continue its evolution in parallel with their needs.