From reading the latest headlines in the media, you would think that the only things telcos care about right now are 5G, NFV/SDN and IoT devices. While this may be valid for the upper echelons of mobile and fixed network operators, it is not the case for many telcos. Indeed, a large number of them are still sweating their legacy TDM-based assets as they look at ways to provide services to their customers that will allow them to migrate to a next-generation IP network.
Deploying a new, all-IP network with all the benefits associated with it may seem like an obvious choice for telcos. The cost of running an all-IP network coupled with the reduced costs of managing such a network all provide substantial savings. However, it is not always easy to chart a migration path. To further compound this, many networks have grown organically through M&A, resulting in multiple vendor platforms being spread across the network.
While many core network services are easily migrated between technologies, it is not always easy to migrate bespoke services. Such services have often evolved organically over many years, and the people involved in their inception will have moved on to new roles.
Why not just stop providing those services? It may seem like an obvious approach: if services are difficult to migrate, just drop them. The problem is that many of these services are high-value offerings that underpin a disproportionate amount of revenue; there is no choice but to continue offering the service.
So what are the options? Telcos can either implement the service and run independent versions of it across two network architectures, or they can migrate the service onto a flexible platform that is capable of serving both network architectures, providing a consistent service to all customers regardless of how they access the service.
By choosing a flexible next generation service platform that spans multiple technologies, telcos are able to benefit from the power and integration options provided by modern system architectures, whilst still being able to service customers on their legacy network.
In addition to service migration, telcos have other issues that they need to solve as part of the migration, such as how they handle customer billing. Simply migrating from a TDM to an all-IP core is a major project, as is migrating from a legacy billing system to a next-generation billing platform. For many telcos, doing one of these can be a stretch – both in terms of risk and manpower. Attempting to do both at the same time is simply not feasible.
Separating the migration can, however, lead to compatibility issues. For example, a next-generation core network may provide diameter billing interfaces, whereas the legacy billing system requires CDR files in a certain format or uses CAMEL for real-time charging.
Choosing the right service platform can solve these problems. A platform that supports a wide range of legacy and next-generation interfaces can provide the network ‘glue’ that allows legacy and next generation platforms to plug together, allowing telcos to migrate their network at their own pace.
In summary, telcos that have not migrated to VoIP-based technologies have concerns about the risk involved in the migration and incompatibilities between old and new infrastructure. By choosing a flexible service integration platform, telcos can tackle the migration to VoIP in small steps, at their own pace, and manage the risk involved in each step.