Friday, November 02, 2007

Sonus Touts VCC

Vaughn O’Grady, editor of the GSM>3G Vision newsletter, published an interview today with Andy Odgers, vice president of wireless technologies with Sonus. The article is titled “Networks: the VCC version.”

I believe this was in response to an interview Vaughn and I did some weeks back which was (surprise, surprise) very UMA-centric. To be fair and balanced, Vaughn interviewed the ‘other side’, Sonus, who touted VCC as the path to convergence.

As readers of this blog know, I predicted that 2007 was the year that the industry would realize the short comings of VCC and begin to turn against it. UMA is the clear technology choice for mobile operators, whereas fixed operators, who have invested in SIP VoIP switches, are the only operators to potentially benefit from VCC.

Yet VCC has three major short comings:

- There is no data session continuity. As the title clearly states, it’s about VOICE call continuity. Start a streaming data session when on Wi-Fi, walk out the front door, and the session drops. Excellent.

- There is no support for supplemental mobile services. I can’t imagine that SMS wouldn’t be carried forward, but capabilities like MMS, ring tone downloads, over the air updates, or any other mobile application beyond voice is not supported. Again, the name clearly states VOICE CALL continuity, no continuity for anything other than voice calls.

- VCC is still not a standard. I honestly don’t know why this is. UMA went from proposal to the 3GPP in September 2004 to ratification in Release 6 in April 2005. VCC was introduced at least 2 years ago and it’s still not completed.

Perhaps Bridgeport, one of the biggest early VCC supports, was the proverbial canary in the coal mine. They shifted away from dual-mode and VCC more than a year ago. Their industry venture MobileIgnite is, for all intents and purposes, dead. Something is definitely not right in VCC land.

Yet Sonus has recently decided that VCC is the path forward for the mobile network.

I think the misunderstanding about UMA is common for people from the SIP world. He suggests that because networks are moving to IP and that “ handsets become SIP-enabled – which they are supposed to be in the IMS model, eventually – you’ve solved your [mobility] problem.”

For some reason, simply saying “SIP” immediately implies mobility.

UMA is a RAN technology, akin to 3G. SIP, of course, is NOT a RAN technology. In fact, SIP has no knowledge of the actual transport layer. So why would putting SIP on a handset suddenly make it capable of moving from the 3G network to a Wi-Fi network? It wouldn’t.

In fact, it’s UMA that will keep SIP blissfully unaware of the underlying transport (Wi-Fi, 3G, GSM,...) and free from that complex mobility issue. Put a SIP client on a UMA handset and SIP gets full mobility between networks today, not “...eventually...”.

But I think it’s this comment that really highlights the issue:

“UMA is an interim that has no future; it doesn’t really fit in with an IP core.”

UMA is the structural foundation for mobile operators to use broadband and IP as *the* low cost RAN technology for service delivery in the home and office. It is the future.

Suggesting that a RAN technology like UMA doesn’t fit with an IP core is like suggesting that 3G doesn’t fit with an IP core. It comes down to a lack of understanding.

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