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IP interoperability can create new revenue for telcos

BT launches a Global IP Exchange hub in Singapore, a platform which it says will allow telcos to interconnect traditional voice calls and voice-over-IP, and offer new services such as HD voice and video calls.
Written by Ryan Huang, Contributor

SINGAPORE--It will be imperative for telcos to move toward Internet Protocol (IP) interoperability to tap new revenue streams and remain competitive. This will enable them to offer a range of value-added services such as high definition (HD) voice calls and video calls across network and device borders.

According to Beatriz Butsana-Sita, managing director for global telecom markets at BT Global Services, a move toward IP interoperability will be a strategic differentiator for telcos, especially in light of margin pressure from over-the-top (OTT) service providers.

For example, communications providers will be able to connect VoIP to VoIP, and VoIP to traditional voice calls, opening up new possibilities for advanced capabilities, Butsana-Sita said in an interview with ZDNet Asia here Thursday.

"You would be able to call someone from your mobile phone to your home PC, or someone on a VoIP could call your home's fixed line," explained Steve Best, managing director of global telecom markets for BT Wholesale.

Such services are typically isolated on private and proprietary networks, and users would usually require identical products, Best noted. He said one way of enabling such services is by leveraging transcoding hubs such as BT's Global IP Exchange (GIPx), which helps telcos convert the different signals.

Both executives were in town for the launch of BT's GIPx in Singapore, its second such facility in the world, outside of the United Kingdom.

Best believes HD voice calls are the way forward. To drive its adoption, consumers need to realize its benefits.

"HD calls are richer. You will be able to hear the person's accents more clearly, and you spend less time trying to figure out what the person is saying," he explained. Citing a survey done by operator Orange, Best pointed out 76 percent of respondents would change mobile devices to obtain HD voice capabilities.


HD voice calls carry wider frequencies (source: BT presentation slides)

Butsana-Sita said telcos will be able to monetize this in a few ways.

Based on her research, she noted that HD voice calls typically lasted 5 percent longer than other calls, and also led to 45 percent longer OTT calls and up to 10 percent longer calls on fixed line networks.

"All these can give a telco a revenue uplift of about 5 to 10 percent, and will allow telcos to have these new stickier products," she said.

Butsana-Sita estimated at least one quarter of international calls would be done in HD in three years' time.

Operators in Asia more receptive
BT launched the new GIPx hub in Singapore to cater to the growing adoption of IP interoperability in Asia-Pacific.

The new hub will give BT efficiency gains, and reduce latency for customers in the region, explained Best. By the end of next year, similar nodes will be set up in Miami to cater to traffic in the United States, and one each for the Middle East and Africa, he said.

The GIPx platform, which was launched five years ago, currently serves around 290 operators globally with 45 of them from the Asia-Pacific region. He pointed out rival Tata Communications offered a similar service, but BT's reach was "second to none".

"This quarter, BT has seen a 12 percent quarter-on-quarter increase in voice minutes over its GIPx platform, and the concentration of use in Asia-Pacific spurred us on to deploy this new node," said Best. He said some 10 new global customers are added to the platform every month.

The faster rollout of LTE in the region would be another factor that will push adoption of its GIPx service, he added.

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