According to IDC, smartphones outsold personal computers, laptops included in Q4 2010! Nokia just announced the demise of the Venerable Symbian in favour of Windows 7 phone and Microsoft’s bing search engine! Tectonic shifts are under way to adapt to the rise of wireless broadband, an all IP world, and the growing weight of Apple and Google Android. It is also time to head once again for Barcelona with the Mobile World Congress starting on the 14th. Highlights this year? Most probably smartphones and LTE, the only reasonable way to accommodate the upcoming deluge of traffic and associated bandwidth. 180 carriers in 70 countries are now at various stages of testing and deployment while the first 17 LTE networks became operational over the last year and 64 are anticipated to be up and running by end of 2011. Sixty three LTE devices are already approved including the first LTE phones. Verizon and MetropPCS both announced their first LTE smartphones as ready to enter the market .

It might seem obvious that one should be able to talk, send SMS’es and roam with these LTE smartphones; telephony signalling and IP are not obvious bedfellows however. Telephony always loved its signalling with its call set-ups and call-terminations, call data records generation, metered billing and roaming charges. After all considerable revenues are associated with telephony, SMS and roaming. LTE runs over IP however where there is no longer separation of signalling and the call itself. This is where VoLTE and its associated IMS (Internet Multimedia Subsystem) come in. Without a telephone number based signalling system anymore, there will ultimately be only IP addresses to “set up the call”. The need for a one to one correlation between IP addresses and ‘subscriber’ and their various services is rather obvious in this context. Five billion smarter phones with multiple services, plus billions of devices begging for unique identification to communicate seamlessly and accurately m2m, imply untold numbers of unique IP addresses.

Yesterday, I was informed that a major 3G Mobile Operator just got their request for a block of IPv4 addresses refused by their RIR for reasons of imminent shortage and is now scrambling to get some advise and council on that famous IPv6 transition. …Sign of things to come? A recent IETF draft happens to cover possible paths for MNO’s considering IPv6 transition. Some brushing up on LTE and VoLTE [PDF] should come handy when urged to put a roadmap together. Within a short couple of years, hidden under the hood, IPv6 will provide enormous amounts of VoLTEage. After all, it was designed with mobile in mind.

Written by Yves Poppe, Director, Business Development IP Strategy at Tata Communications