A leading provider of hosted IP voice solutions for 4G wireless broadband operators, Alianza says its time to give a little shove.
4G voice has been making inroad in the marketplace, and perhaps with good reason. The cost of implementing a WiMAX-based system can be a fraction of what it costs to roll out a traditional voice solution.
While that argument has helped move the sector forward, now Utah-based Alianza and its confederates would like to pick up the pace. Recently Alianza announced the formation of the Accelerate VoIP Ecosystem, an association of 20 industry players all cooperating to develop best practices and industry guidelines.
Participants come from four disparate fields. They are device makers, integrators, carriers, and network operators. "We focus especially on what we can do for 4G broadband operations, and their success is largely a matter of these four groups," said Alianza Chief Executive Officer Brian Beutler.
"You can have all the success in the world in three of four categories, but if you fall short in just one area, that is going to impact the customers experience," he said.
The customer experience is the greatest challenge to 4G voice adoption, Beutler said. Faced with the limitations of the technology, carriers face a high hurdle in delivering quality service. "Voice over a 4G network is very unlike what you would encounter over a wired network, for example," Beutler said.
"How far are you from the base station? What is your signal modulation? Is it winter time when there are no leaves on the trees, and how will springtime affect your customers signal when all the leaves come out?" All these variables will impact the customer experience.
While service may be beholden to technical issues, this makes up only one part of the picture in this still-emerging corner of the telecom universe. For many in the ecosystem, the pace of success will depend on even more fundamental business questions.
"Even if the quality of service is superb and your sales force is rocking, there are things like provisioning a new accounting system, providing technical support, troubleshooting, accounting, billing and invoicing your customers," Beutler said. "If those are manual processes, at some point that is going to be your weak link."
These matters will rate high alongside technical issues as the ecosystem gets down to work. "We really want it to be a holistic view," Beutler said.
The groups first order of business will be to pool information about the end-to-end construction of their networks, in order to build up case studies of best practices. At the same time, the group will be working to evolve a set of guidelines so that industry standards developed by groups like 3GPP and the WiMAX Forum can be implemented consistently across the field.
4G voice needs consistency, Beutler said, on account of the many moving parts involved in delivering service. Network operators, carriers, equipment vendors and connection points: All are links in a chain, and they need to work in harmony.
On the up side, Alianza has seen its technology making inroads, despite these diverse hurdles. Beutlers customers have seen anywhere from 10 percent to 60 percent of their end users opt for voice as part of their overall service package.
The end users most likely to take on voice are those with a high-level commit to the idea, Beutler said. "Is there executive sponsorship behind VoIP? What are the internal priorities? Do they have formal internal objectives within VoIP?"
Theres a lot a vendor to can to control the equation. Price structure can help make a deal, along with sound processes for sign-up and fulfillment. Here too the new consortium aims to play a role by helping to document and shape best practices.
Beutler has firsthand experience with the virtues of cooperation within the industry. When operators first signed onto his platform, it would take them three to six months to launch. Now its down to less than 60 days, thanks to extensive feedback from others within the industry that helped Beutler hone his processes.
"Now the ecosystem can be the catalyst for asking those questions," he said. "If questions do come up, then the ecosystem can step up and say: Okay, lets mobilize, lets find some answers to these particular issues."