The evolution of IP Centrex – towards a unified, flexible approach for future B2B services
IP Centrex remains an essential service for operators, but many have solutions that are based on legacy platforms and cannot evolve to match new requirements and network upgrades. B2B services will remain a key focus, so how can you ensure your IP Centrex solutions are compatible with future evolution?
IP Centrex generates revenue and is key to many operator voice service capabilities
IP Centrex is hardly a new service, yet it remains core to the proposition and offer of many operators. Indeed, for most, it’s their core B2B value added service. As such, it’s likely to remain important for many years to come. Just as voice has seen a resurgence lately, voice-related services continue to be fundamental.
This was recognised by several speakers at the recent “5G Core Summit”. However, one noted that there’s plenty of scope for future evolution of such services and that operators need to think about how they might evolve.
We’ve already seen this. There are many legacy IP Centrex solutions that continue to generate solid revenue, but which are not compatible with existing evolution paths. Some are not IMS-compatible, while others have not evolved to address VoLTE. These are obvious steps, and the answer in many cases is to replace the legacy platform with one that’s essentially a straight swap, with back-to-back compatibility but which has full compatibility with the new cloud, IMS and VoLTE environments.
What’s the right evolution path for IP Centrex?
This ensures service persistence, but it’s probably just the first step in the evolution path. So, how else should IP Centrex evolve? Well, the industry is still working out how such services will change to take account of any evolution to new voice standards, such as Voice over New Radio (VoNR). The answers aren’t clear yet, but it seems likely that:
- API integration with multiple platforms – internal and external - is necessary
- One-size-fits-all vanilla IP Centrex should extend towards segmented and niche offers
- Mobile convergence, with seamless network interoperability
- Rationalisation of some features, as operator-delivered voice blends with external service capabilities
- Service customisation for each operator, segment and target niche
- Full cloudification, compatible with private, public and hybrid telco cloud models
Of course, each operator is different, so the combination of these steps adopted is likely to differ, but probably not by too much. That’s because, with more emphasis on customisation, operators can adopt a broadly common framework architecture, while choosing how to tailor and tune their services later. They just need the capabilities to do so.
One thing is certain, however: IP Centrex can no longer be tied to fixed devices. Mobile integration is mandatory, from a network perspective, not simply from call forwarding – itself a limitation of many legacy platforms.
And, most operators are starting this evolution path from a different position. Many do indeed have IP Centrex platforms, but not all have incorporated true fixed mobile convergence, or have deployed 5G yet. Similarly, while VoLTE is widespread – depending on which figures you choose, there are around 200 commercial VoLTE networks globally - there’s still a long way to go before it’s truly ubiquitous. We may not even get there, as there may be choices regarding VoLTE adoptions vs adoption of a future, evolved VoNR standard that has yet to emerge. That remains to be seen.
Evolution for the next B2B service era
This last point is interesting, as some at the conference suggested that the current VoNR standards, which essentially draw on voice for LTE but with 5G access, may have to evolve and need significant revisions. One strong argument is that B2B services are a candidate for significant innovation and that operators need to take a lead.
So, we don’t quite know where we are going, but we can say for certain that we have the basic tools in place:
- IMS / VoLTE
- Initial VoNR, drawing on the above
- Integration opportunities
- Mobile integration options
- Cloud-native, mature deployments
To which we can add, the customisation potential that’s inherent to all of Gintel’s solutions. So, if you are looking at your IP Centrex platform and wondering where to go next while preserving your current revenue-generating services, you should talk to our team. We’re busy helping operators replace their legacy solutions while building a replacement that provides the foundation they need for future evolution. The evolution path towards suture B2B services is underway – take the next steps with Gintel.