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Unlocking voice for the 5G era

Although voice was once the king of the mobile services, its declining ARPUs have knocked it off its throne. It’s become a legacy service, forcing CSPs to take a good look at their strategy for its future.

Over the years, voice has been re-invented many times, but it often seems to end up in a silo on its own.  CSPs have also become accustomed to battling it out with OTT service providers over voice, a drama that has unfolded right in front of us in only ten years.

While voice is still a major deal for enterprises and forms the heart of the Unified Communications market, CSPs face a dilemma as they head for the cloud and 5G – they can neither charge for voice nor ignore it.

What is clear is that 5G is different – not simply the latest network refresh but a huge change in the way we do everything and it will have a major effect on how we think of voice services.

Even more importantly, 5G will lead to the markets of service providers and verticals converging, blowing apart the traditional silos that have constrained the potential of voice. 5G infrastructure enables a much wider variety of services than ever before. Most of these services will be packaged into market offers that combine data and voice capabilities tuned for specific use cases that take advantage of the new characteristics of 5G, such as very high mobile data rates, low radio latency, or network slicing.

It’s obvious that voice will remain essential, but it’s equally clear that the nature of the service will change in some fundamental ways because of 5G and the technologies that make it happen:

  1. 5G will change voice and data from a “service” to a “service enabler”: Within the radically different 5G ecosystem, services offered to subscribers and enterprises will be mashups of a wide variety of capabilities. Voice is no longer the main offer from service providers, nor is it even the primary component of any communications service package.
  2. Cloud Native & Webscale technology is causing a shift in the industry: Thousands of new services will be created rapidly, a method that will become standard. In many of these voice will be included, but it will be one building block of many in a broader offer, with the entirety of the service implemented in software.  
  3. Technology and social behaviour is leading to simpler voice services: Complex subscriber features tied to the voice service are no longer needed, and in fact create integration issues. Yet with new techniques like Cloud technology and methods that support it, such as AI and DevOps, it is easier to achieve a more rational approach to building voice services. But for this to work, the voice service component must be simple and modular.

5G will enable a wide range of truly novel applications that are only just emerging, and where voice will play an important role. For instance, in eHealth scenarios, 5G will help medics in ambulances maintain voice and video connections with ER. In another example, voice capability can be offered as part of a low-latency gaming package.

Voice cannot be ignored, but how we think about it has already radically changed. The nature of 5G and the Cloud means some exciting times ahead for our old friend, voice.

Be sure to check out our new white paper – the first in a series of six – on Voice over 5G, at

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks or @nokia using #5G

Jitin Bhandari

About Jitin Bhandari

Jitin Bhandari is CTO and Vice President, Core Networks at Nokia with 20+ years experience in diverse roles as technologist, portfolio leader & strategic consulting with all size corporations. A sport fanatic keeping true to his New England base, he loves to run and is known for his unique ability of big picture strategic focus and proven ability to deep dive and execute w/ his lineage with two startups.

Tweet me at @jbhandari

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