4G momentum continues as Spark lays groundwork for “fully digital future”

“We took this project from a concept on paper to a functioning demonstration in less than 14 weeks.”

Spark New Zealand has laid the foundation for a “fully digital future network”, paving the way for new services such as high definition voice and video calls over 4G (also known as LTE).

Chief Operating Officer David Havercroft says the telco 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,” Havercroft says.

“VoLTE is the next generation of mobile voice technology, delivering crystal-clear high-definition voice and video calls that connect noticeably more quickly.”

Havercroft says VoLTE gives people the ability to switch between audio and video calls without interruption and to use 4G data while on a call.

“Because VoLTE uses the network more efficiently it also has the potential to give devices longer battery life,” he explains.

“All these advantages are independent of the operating system or app a customer uses.”

Mobile technology is continually changing with Havercroft claiming that Spark networks 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,” he explains. “Our future digital network will unleash the potential of people’s devices like never before.”

Today, Havercroft believes both vIMS and VoLTE underline the huge increase in the pace of change, both in global technology and within Spark New Zealand.

“We took this project from a concept on paper to a functioning demonstration in less than 14 weeks,” he says. “We’re not letting up on the pace of innovation and change to deliver value to our customers.”

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.

For Havercroft, this marks an “historic 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 revolutionise roaming, allowing customers to be directly connected to the Spark Network no matter where they are in the world,” Havercroft adds.

Voice over LTE (VoLTE)

VoLTE will shift voice calls, which currently run on Spark’s 3G network, onto the 4G network.

Havercroft says 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,” he adds.

“Combined with Spark’s leadership in 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.”

Havercroft says this all operates independent of applications, operating systems, and device types (provided they are 4G compatible) with the telco so far refusing to release decisions on timeframes for commercial implementation of vIMS and VoLTE.

Vendor wise, the company has used a combination of open-source and off-the-shelf products to build and deliver the proof-of-concept, partnering 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.

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