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David Williams
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David Williams
Global Director of Sales, Research
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Wireless Softswitching: Mobilizing IP
Mobile network operators have been attracting subscribers and growing revenues for over a decade. Over this period, wireless has fundamentally changed the communications landscape and become a massively profitable sector of the telecom market. Part of this success has come at the expense of landline providers, which have seen fixed/mobile substitution eat away at their revenues and expose high fixed costs in the PSTN network as unsustainable.

Now, after years of expansion, mobile operators are starting to face the same pressures as wireline providers. Subscriber growth is slowing, price per minute is falling, revenue per user is flat or in decline, and profit margins are under pressure. In short, the mobile sector is maturing.

In response, operators are pursuing a wide range of initiatives to boost their growth prospects, from wireless data over 3G to fixed/mobile convergence services. At the same time, operators are becoming more aggressive about controlling and reducing network costs.

In the network core, this involves capping investment in circuit-switched infrastructure based around “classic” mobile switching centers (MSCs) and migrating to IP-based transport and mobile softswitch architectures. For operators in high-growth, low-ARPU markets, cost control is equally or more important, and there is little appetite to invest in legacy circuit-switched equipment. Here, operators are able to achieve a far lower price per line by moving directly to packet networks than they could with classic circuit-switched MSCs.

This report provides an overview of the mobile softswitch market, with an analysis of the technology and standards supporting the migration from circuit-based to packet-based mobile voice core networks. It addresses the key drivers for softswitch architectures in mobile networks, based on operator type and their respective strategies for wider network transformation projects, including a stepwise migration to IP Multimedia Subsystem and, ultimately, the all-IP network.

The second part of the report is focused on vendor positioning in the mobile softswitch market. It addresses the momentum vendors have in terms of customers and unit shipments, and evaluates product evolution strategies.

Sample research data from the report is shown in the excerpts below:
Table of Contents (uni0306_toc.pdf)
The idea of distributed switching as a driver of mobile core network transformation depends on the timeline individual operators have not just for evolution of the voice core, but also the introduction of packet services over IMS. Two scenarios are shown in the figure below:
[click on the image above for the full excerpt]
There are three basic implementations of the MSC Server: a software upgrade to a classic MSC; standalone MSC Servers based on processing units and call control software derived from the classic MSC product; and new MSC Servers based on new software and hardware platforms, such as ATCA. The figure below summarizes the various approaches taken by major mobile switching equipment suppliers:
[click on the image above for the full excerpt]
Companies analyzed in this report: Alcatel; Ericsson AB; Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.; Lucent Technologies Inc.; Motorola Inc.; Nokia Corp.; Nortel Networks Ltd.; and Siemens AG.
Total pages: 28
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