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Mobile voice quality still carries weight with consumers

Mobile networks are becoming increasingly data-centric, but many users still perceive their quality of service through the voice experience they receive. Ahead of his speaker presentation at 5G World, Pierre-Francois Dubois, Senior Vice President of Product Developments at Orange, outlines why this is still the case, and why the real impact of 5G may not be on the consumer market.

PF Dubois

Hype and focus is really starting to shift towards the 5G future. Where does this leave VoLTE on the priority list?

VoLTE is really associated with 4G (hence its name). Now that it has been rolled out by many operators, it is getting more and more mature, although some challenges remain ahead of us like VoLTE roaming. I consider it important to share experience on VoLTE and see how we can still enhance its performance, but I don’t expect major breakthroughs in the future.

4G networks arguably deliver the speeds that mobile users really need. Call quality, however, is something that sometimes still suffers. From the consumer perspective, do you think MNOs should be focusing more on improving VoLTE, VoWiFi, ViLTE and other related services, and solving issues such as roaming?

Although mobile networks are more and more data-centric, the quality of networks is still perceived by many users through the voice service provided by operators. This is why investing in good coverage, VoLTE and VoWiFi has been driven by competition between Operators. Hence, VoLTE roll-out was rather fast once the devices were available.

This driver does not exist for ViLTE or roaming where it is more a matter of cooperation between MNOs:

  • With many OTT players providing video-calls, it does not make sense to provide ViLTE only on your own network. MNOs need to move forward together, which is not always easy.
  • As circuit switch fall back works well, there is no real incentive to accelerate on VoLTE roaming which generates costs without clear competitive advantage or ROI.

What do you think will be the most critical development in LTE over the next six to 12 months?

There are a lot of expectations around LTE-M and I hope that we will see a lot of developments in the months to come.

LTE was seen as a revolution in the industry. Now we have 5G. How do you see 5G roll-out impacting business models and competition?

2G and 4G enjoyed a fast take off as their claim was simple: mobile voice for 2G and mobile broadband for 4G, and the ecosystem was ready to support it in both cases.

3G was not rolled out so rapidly as the value proposal was not so clear for the customers: even the first iPhone in 2007 was 2G and WiFi only!

I believe 5G is facing the same kind of challenge and may face a slow roll-out compared to 4G. We can expect a lot of technical breakthroughs which will address targeted needs such as fixed wireless access and several verticals (automotive, factories, e-health), but I don’t see yet how they will have a major impact on the consumer market.

Where do you think the major investments will be made over the next five years?

Internet of Things is an area where investments should remain important as this is where operators can look for growth.

NFV/SDN should also see some momentum, although determining the right road-map in order to get all the benefits will be a challenge.

Last but not least, there should still be a race for higher bandwidth as this is a domain where it is easy for operators to communicate and show operational excellence.

What are you most looking forward to about 5G World, and what will be your key message as a speaker?

This is a key event for the industry with a very interesting line up of speakers and vendors.

Apart from the presentation I’ll be making on our experience at Orange on IoT, I hope to see presentations on 5G which will help us to understand how we can turn these technical breakthroughs into commercial success for MNOs.

Hear more from Pierre-Francois Dubois at 5G World, part of TechXLR8 and London Tech Week, 13-15 June. Find out more 

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