Spark NZ: Working to serve customers of the future
Spark New Zealand has successfully tested high-definition voice and video calling over a 4G mobile network, and says this marks the start of a fully digital future network.
David Havercroft, Spark chief operating officer, says Spark has demonstrated a new Virtualised IP Multimedia Subsystem (vIMS) as a proof of concept, and successfully used it to make Voice over LTE (VoLTE) calls between a number of different devices.
“This is a significant step forward in our plan to transform our network and bring all customers together on a unified future-ready communications platform,” he says.
According to Havercroft, VoLTE is the next generation of mobile voice technology, delivering clear HD voice and video calls that connect faster.
He says VoLTE gives users the ability to switch between audio and video calls without interruption, to use 4G data while on a call, and has the potential to give devices longer batter life as it uses the network more efficiently.
Furthermore, these advantages are independent of the operating system or app a customer uses, he says.
“Mobile technology is continually changing and our network needs to handle, not just what is possible today, but what our customers will demand in the future.
“VoLTE is another big step on that journey. Our future digital network will unleash the potential of people’s devices like never before,” Havercroft says.
“We took this project from a concept on paper to a functioning demonstration in less than 14 weeks. We’re not letting up on the pace of innovation and change to deliver value to our customers,” he says.
Virtualised IP Multimedia Subsystem (vIMS)
Virtualised IP Multimedia Subsystem takes core network functions and moves them into the cloud.
Over time, vIMS will bring Spark New Zealand’s mobile and fixed networks together onto a unified, IP-based platform.
This marks a shift from the traditional copper-based PSTN network that supports voice services today.
Devices will use the best network available for any and all services, whether this is broadband, 3G, 4G, or WiFi.
This will also be able to work overseas, which will improve roaming, allowing customers to be directly connected to the Spark Network no matter where they are in the world.
Voice over LTE (VoLTE)
VoLTE will shift voice calls, which currently run on Spark’s 3G network, onto the 4G network.
Spark has successfully run a full suite of IMS-based calling scenarios - including VoLTE - between mobile phones, from mobile to fixed Broadband networks, and from mobile to the PSTN network.
VoLTE will enable a more efficient use of mobile spectrum. Combined with the LTE 700MHz spectrum, this new development means more bandwidth will be available to customers for other services.
Customers will also be able to use multiple services on the 4G network simultaneously, and to access extra information like geo-location and presence information, as well as the potential for better battery life on their devices under similar usage conditions.
This all operates independent of applications, operating systems, and device types (provided they are 4G compatible).
Spark New Zealand has not yet made any decisions on time frames for commercial implementation of vIMS and VoLTE.
Spark New Zealand used a combination of open-source and off-the-shelf products to build and deliver the proof-of-concept.
Spark partnered with Cisco Systems for virtualised network infrastructure, management, and packet core functions; Metaswitch Networks for the virtualised IMS functions; and New Zealand company OpenCloud for the Application Server functions.