cell phone talkAs the nation’s largest wireless service providers roll out VoLTE, they’re looking for ubiquitous coverage – and that presents both opportunities and challenges for the nation’s smaller rural wireless operators that rely on roaming agreements with the larger carriers for coverage outside their home turf.

“The Tier 2 and Tier 3 [carriers] know it’s just a matter of time before roaming agreements require this,” said Damian Sazama, vice president of corporate and product marketing for Interop Technologies, a provider of cloud-based wireless infrastructure.

But unlike previous cellular voice services, VoLTE is IP-based and as Sazama explained, it requires an IP multimedia subsystem (IMS) core, which can be a major undertaking. As of now few, if any, smaller network operators have launched VoLTE for their own customers – although Sazama expects to see smaller carrier VoLTE launches this summer.

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Sazama also points out something not everyone may have realized about IMS that could be good news for smaller carriers. Smaller network operators can support VoLTE roaming even if they haven’t launched their own VoLTE offering.

He notes, for example, that Interop offers an IMS core on a hosted basis as part of its CorePlusX offering, enabling small network operators using that offering to obtain IMS peering agreements with major operators to support VoLTE roaming. If desired, the service also can support the small carrier’s own VoLTE offering. Sazama said operators can roll out VoLTE service in about 30 to 45 days using Interop’s service, which means “they could be the first in their market.”

Cablecos and VoWiFi
Interop is one of several companies offering cloud-based alternatives aimed at minimizing small wireless carriers’ infrastructure investment requirements. Other companies that have announced such services, including some that offer a cloud-based IMS core, are:

Sazama said he is not aware of another company that currently offers cloud-based IMS peering for VoLTE. But it wouldn’t be surprising to see some of these other companies launching similar services.

In addition to cloud-based IMS and VoLTE, Interop also offers cloud-based rich communications services, policy control and voice over WiFi.

Sazama said Interop has seen considerable interest in cloud-based VoWiFi from smaller cable companies since Cablevision announced a VoWiFi offering recently. While Cablevision’s offering is VoWiFi-only, Sazama said smaller more rural cablecos are looking at offerings that would fall back on cellular where WiFi is not available.

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