According to the November 2017 Ericsson Mobility Report, the number of VoLTE subscriptions is projected to reach 5.5 billion in 2023. So why is this interesting and how can this help you make more money on your VoLTE network investment?

Monetize VoLTE with new device types

The global subscriber uptake shows that VoLTE technology is maturing now and the device eco-system will develop faster, because there is a larger global market. More types of VoLTE-capable devices, apart from smartphones, have just started hitting the market, enabling new use cases and revenue opportunities within both the consumer and enterprise segments. See the latest VoLTE subscriber forecast in the Ericsson Mobility Report.

Most operators do not charge separately for the basic HD voice over LTE service; it is included as part of LTE smartphone bundles. So how can operators that have invested in upgrading their networks with IMS monetize VoLTE?

Cellular smartwatches with VoLTE

One of the latest examples of how to monetize with new types of devices is the first cellular smartwatch with VoLTE support that was launched during the autumn of 2017. A subscriber can now leave the smartphone at home, and just use the VoLTE-capable smartwatch, using the same phone number as on the smartphone.

It is convenient in situations such as playing sports to not have to carry a bulky phone. Because this provides great user value, operators that have launched this charge up to USD 10 extra per month for a bundle that includes a voice-capable cellular smartwatch. Read more: Multi-SIM: One Number, Multiple Devices.

IoT devices with voice support

Another example of an area to explore further is voice services in an IoT context. This relates more to how operators can monetize VoLTE via enterprises. VoLTE for Cat-M1 is now just starting to emerge on the market, in infrastructure as well as in device chipsets, and as a next step, it will be incorporated in all kinds of IoT devices where a basic voice calling capability would make business sense.

I’ll give you a couple of examples, and when you start thinking about this, I am sure you can come up with numerous innovative ideas where this could be used, providing sound business value.

We have all experienced a coffee machine that does not work. Sometimes there is a phone number on the machine for calling a service center, but honestly, did you ever pick up your phone and make that call? Probably not. But what if there instead were a simple “voice button” on the coffee machine labelled “Push here to call the service center.” Well, maybe that is something you would do if you reach the service center staff immediately, they instantly know which machine you are calling from, and you just need to state what the problem is. This type of IoT voice button, enabled with Cat-M1 and VoLTE support could be integrated in all the coffee supplier’s machines. This is an example of improved business efficiency; the coffee supplier can quickly repair any broken machine and sell more coffee.

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Then there are more personal assistance types of situations where it could be convenient to use cheap IoT devices to communicate. What about putting a simple IoT device with a voice button on your dog’s collar. If your dog runs away, someone will soon notice it is a stray dog. That person could easily just push the voice button, and the owner of the dog would receive the call, and they could discuss where to pick up the dog.

How to expand the device eco-system

Key to enabling and monetizing these kinds of new use cases is widespread VoLTE coverage and the proliferation of cost-efficient IoT devices with Cat-M1 and VoLTE support, as well as other VoLTE-enabled devices such as tablets, wearables, and so on. In order to speed up this process, the industry players—operators, infrastructure suppliers, and device and chipset vendors—have to work together.

Everyone will benefit from new valuable use cases: consumers, enterprises, and their customers. And if people find services useful, it is also possible to charge for them. Just do it in a smart way from the start; offering different kinds of targeted bundles is probably a good way to approach this.

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Kati Öhman

Kati Öhman

Kati Öhman is Marketing Manager for Communication Services in Ericsson Business Area Digital Services. Kati has 20 years of experience in the Telecommunications industry, within radio and core networks and has worked with marketing for the past 10 years. She has specialized in marketing the evolution of telephony services and worked on creating market interest for the VoLTE technology in mobile networks, which is also used in the latest smartphones and other consumer devices. She is now exploring how this will play a role for service providers in 5G networks. Kati has a Master of Science from KTH Stockholm and a B.Sc. in Finance from Stockholm University.

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