Earlier this month, Comptel had the privilege of attending the Policy Control and Data Pricing 2014 conference in Berlin.
Jyrki Berg, vice president of products and solutions, and Tinakaran Ramdas, Comptel Policy and Charging Control product manager (pictured left), joined me at the expo, which focused on how communications service providers (CSPs) and telecommunications vendors are adapting to the industry’s constantly changing technology and competition.
The presentations and speeches covered a broad range of themes including over-the-top (OTT) business models, network function virtualization (NFV), software-defined networking (SDN), voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) services, policy and charging integration and, of course, data pricing.
Here’s what industry thought leaders had to say about each topic.
The OTT Dilemma
As can be expected, one of the major issues CSPs discussed had to do with OTT providers, from Skype to WhatsApp… and every messaging and voice service in between. Lucy Lombardi, the senior vice president of industry relations for Telecom Italia, had some news to share: telcos need to find new ways to innovate when it comes to battling OTT providers for market share.
While it’s challenging for CPSs to compete with the agility of OTT providers when it comes to time-to-market, Lombardi suggested that CSPs focus on customer experience and strategically partner with OTT providers when local services are needed, a higher quality of service (QoS) is desired or customers want more security. OTT providers might be able to adjust and adapt faster than telcos, but there are still plenty of opportunities for CSPs that pursue customer-centric innovation.
NFV & SDN: One Policy to Rule Them All
The NFV / SDN discussions all came back to policy control and traffic management. The consensus at the conference was that the full potential of NFV / SDN can only be reached if systems can dynamically prioritise traffic. The right policy, however, can result in big savings when implemented.
“Policy is the brain,” one speaker told attendees, “but rules engines and current engines are changing a lot from [their] current forms.”
He added that the right deployment of NFV can improve service agility and flexibility, and even make CSPs look a little more like web companies, offering the faster service roll-outs of OTT providers.
VoLTE – A Game Changer
One speaker said that VoLTE is going to be a “game changer” for policy control. He reminded attendees that voice is still a critical revenue generator, with 70 percent of revenues – about $600 billion – coming from voice services. And that’s all at risk from OTT providers.
Cost reduction is a big draw of VoLTE services. The speaker added that, when voice services are run through LTE, twice as many voice calls can run through the same spectrum. Some telcos are already working to deploy VoLTE for customers – about 10 percent have some form of VoLTE service in place, and the GSMA expects 20 more VoLTE deployments this year alone.
When telcos move voice to LTE, policy and service opportunities grow wildly. Scalability and performance improve, and CSPs can potentially experiment by separating data and voice into different packages.
The Data Debacle
When it came to pricing, the conference discussed one thing in particular: data. Keith Breed, the research director of the Tariff Consultancy, wondered aloud whether the vast differences in data pricing could be sustainable. In Europe, data had a relatively low price, whereas in North America, it was much higher. While the market can influence pricing, competition counts – and with less flexible pricing toward data, more OTT providers will proliferate.
Yet there was another data-related topic to be covered, too: net neutrality. There’s a debate within the European Union (EU) about how the Internet ecosystem is changing; at the core of that debate is what role CSPs should play in connecting people. Should all traffic be created equally? How should infrastructure be built to cope with rising demands?
Cisco estimates data growth in 2013 climbed by 57 percent in Western Europe and by 99 percent in Eastern and Central Europe. That kind of demand will change both policy control and data pricing, so it’s up to CSPs to think about how to adapt to new infrastructure demands.
There were many more great presentations and thought-provoking speeches at the Policy Control and Data Pricing in Berlin.
We will cover some in detail in the upcoming weeks, so check back for more!
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