Narrowing the Quality Gap With Bigger, Better Broadband Means OTT Services Can Actually Work Better Than Traditional Cellular Services
Apples and oranges – comparing Over-the-Top (OTT) services with traditional telephony is a classic example of this mix!
OTT provides subscribers with real time communications capabilities similar to traditional telephony, however they are delivered very differently, and like any “web” experience rely on the quality of everything down to the last mile – and last millimeter.
Traditional telephony is measured by ASR (average success rate – which % of the attempts result in a call) and ACD (average call duration – assuming a call dropped will lower the ACD).
A landline call is the definition of reliability: unless someone cuts the wire users will hear a dial tone and be able to make a call.
A mobile network is also considered extremely reliable, yet its most common limitation is the quality of the cellular coverage.
In the traditional telco domain the services are expected to perform at 99.999% reliability.
In the OTT world, however, call quality is influenced by many more factors as a result of the IP infrastructure: you may have great bandwidth, low delay and no packet loss resulting in a High Definition voice call that far surpasses what traditional telco provides. On the other hand you may be in a public space or highly populated office where IP traffic is congested and using an older VoIP codec the call will keep braking up because of packet loss or delays. Newer codecs like OPUS in WebRTC improve the situation, but for real time communication to provide good quality you need a minimum SLA from the IP network.
Owning the “Last Mile”
In a landline scenario, the CSPs literally own the last mile and can provide a clear SLA for performance.
However, in the mobile world the last mile is far more complicated due to the disparity of often limited cellular reception in certain physical areas. In case of VoIP, the “last mile” is whatever Internet infrastructure the subscriber is currently using; a high speed fiber connection to their home, a congested hotel IP network, or a data connection over cellular. The variety of access options is huge and the provider will have no way to guarantee the quality of service in all the possible scenarios.
Why Business Models Matter
In comparing OTT to PSTN or cellular there is another factor to consider: IP communications are agnostic to location and the payload of the media. While we will not get into a discussion of Net Neutrality in this post, however simply put, it does not make a difference if you send an email from the next room or the next continent.
In traditional business models, there are still concepts like roaming and long distance that simply do not exist in the IP world. This is why fring and other OTT solutions are winning – consumers want to connect in real time globally without having to pay for international long distance fees. Skype grew it’s business on this principle very quickly as a pioneer in the OTT world.
The Trade Off: Choice of Network
Landlines are fixed, and expensive.
Mobile service offerings deliver a more flexible connection but are still bound by “coverage” and subscribers are out of coverage, they are either unable to place calls, or may be forced to pay premium roaming fees from another network.
Even though OTT services are less controllable when it comes to quality of service, the OTT approach works on accessible IP network: Wi-Fi at home or work, Wi-Fi at a coffee shop or public place, a cellular data network or a wired network connection. In other words: with IP you are always “at home” no matter where you are in the world.
The Trade Off: More Choice in Devices
Today we use smartphones, tablets, PCs and smart TVs. Generally speaking, all our content (news, TV, email) and our real time communications is device agnostic – just log in and the cloud will deliver personalized services (user name and password protected).
fring Alliance OTT software is used by CSPs to make any device ring when an incoming call is made to a “real” phone number. In addition, messaging also is associated with that same mobile from any device, and this agnositic approach helped fring attract over 50 million registered users in a relatively brief period of time – and is a huge part of why some of the largest mobile service providers in the world have chosen fring (vs. RCS which today requires RCS compliant phones).
Is User Experience Ultimately the True Test of “Quality?”
After decades focusing on voice communications and SMS, CSPs do it very well, but they often stop there. They are great at providing super specialized infrastructure for these two services and only these.
RCS is taking a very long time and combined with IMS network transformations is turning out to be complicated and expensive.
Challengers have been able to sprout up quickly and bring subscribers alternative OTT services – because their applications are awesome and the user experience is so fun, consumers are willing to overlook occasional quality problems.
We posit this theory: great services are created by teams that define every aspect of the user experience and create all they need to succeed.
It’s not too late for the CSPs to catch up and bring great user experiences to market COMBINED with their superior network services, which create distinct “competitive advantages” – but without an experience users love, the quality of the network itself becomes secondary – at best.
fring Alliance is helping CSPs go to market with a “proven cool” experience, faster and better, with less risk, and an ability to roll out services in weeks.
The experiences are so good, and the value so clear to their subscribers, that uptake is taking off, and these industry leaders are enjoying immediate benefits. The bottom line – their customers are thrilled!
Next week, I’ll post on the new definition of “Interconnection” as the fring Alliance team meets up with many of the top people in the world working in international Real Time Communications strategies meet up in Chicago at the i3 forum.