Grand Central (Google Voice) vs VOLGA: Swim with the tide or drown?

Grand central VOLGA LTE.JPG

Along with Martin Sauter and Dean Bubley, I am a fan of the LTE VOLGA initiative announced formally just last week. We all recognise a key gap in the industry that VOLGA tries to address – in that LTE does not have inbuilt voice

Interestingly however, this morning, I see an announcement today that GrandCentral Returns as Google Voice.

I had long been tracking the disruptive potential of Grand Central and similar initiatives ( right from the times of Mobile Web 2.0 in 2006

The VOLGA announcement was a classic case of recognising the need for innovation and taking a step towards that direction independent of the standardization process as Martin Sauter says in The Volga-Forum: Taking the Quest For Voice over LTE out of 3GPP

Dean Bubley also says in VoLGA – reinventing UMA for Voice-over-LTE

One thing which is notable is that all of this is being done outside the 3GPP, which appears to have been dragging its feet for several years over this VoIP+LTE problem. I’d imagine that this more-pragmatic group will try to push for VoLGA to be standardised after deployment, rather than braving the politics in the short term.

And now .. we see Grand central which should act as a wakeup call to the industry to adopt pragmatic initiatives like VOLGA.

We all know that LTE does not have Voice.

We all know that next generation networks need Voice and we (as an industry) cannot go to customers and tell them that we have only data – and not voice. Ha ha!

Even services like Skype or Grand Central cannot really function without Voice interconnect.

So, a solution needs to be found

There are three interesting paradoxes here:

a) We need interconnect at network level to foster interconnect at a service level. Interconnect at the network level is harder(MUCH harder – and indeed much more expensive!) than at a service level(SMS interconnect took seven years and still ongoing globally. Voice interconnect also took a lot longer for mobile). Yet, you cannot do the service level interconnect without network level interconnect(think about the fact that we need similar network elements – at least IMS and LTE, new cables and network capacity etc)

b) Voice is one of the few services for which we DO need QOS and traffic optimization. Hence, it is one of the services that will be more tightly coupled to the network

c) The need for innovation vs. standardization as both Martin and Dean mentioned before.

So, in light of the announcement for Grand Central – I see that the adoption of a pragmatic choice like VOLGA is imperative. The choice for Telecoms is to swim with the tide(VOLGA) or drown at Grand Central – as yet another service gets abstracted at higher levels of the stack – and we all saw this coming for years! :)

Update: NY times/Gigaom also picks up on the VOLGA potential

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