TIM and Vodafone Italy said they are carrying out interoperability tests on their respective networks in an effort to enable customers of both operators to make voice calls over LTE (VoLTE) and exchange messages based on the RCS (Rich Communication Suite services) standard.
The two Italy-based operators said they plan to establish an IP interconnection between their mobile networks to support VoLTE/RCS interoperability.
TIM and Vodafone Italy have already launched separate VoLTE services on their networks. Vodafone beat its rival by launching its service last July, while TIM unveiled its VoLTE offering in December.
The announcement that they also plan to test the interoperability of RCS will no doubt be welcomed by the GSMA, which has been pushing the standard for a number of years. Proponents argue that RCS would form the basis for interoperability that would also extend to video calling. But, as recently noted by sister publication FierceWireless, industry support for the technology has been lacklustre and implementations have been mocked.
As in many of its European markets, Vodafone Italy is using the Call+ and Message+ apps for its VoLTE and RCS services.
Fabrizio Rocchio, Vodafone Italy's CTO, said the initiative with TIM means that Vodafone customers who already use Call+ and Message + "will be able to use them when communicating with the customers of other operators."
Both VoLTE and Wi-Fi calling are regarded as important technologies for mobile operators as they seek to improve the quality and coverage of mobile voice services, in a bid to compete with over-the-top chat and messaging apps.
In December last year, the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) said the number of VoLTE deployments had reached 40 worldwide, while the total number of HD voice deployments including VoLTE stood at 150 in 87 countries. Of these, 128 are on 3G networks and 17 are on 2G.
Earlier last year, Deloitte noted in its annual Mobile Consumer report that VoLTE will help operators halt the decline in revenue caused by the exodus of users to over-the-top (OTT) chat apps, for example.
"OTT VoIP may impact operators' bottom line in the long term. However, VoLTE could offset a potential decline in revenue, even if consumers do not end up paying more for VoLTE services," the research company said.
- see this TIM release
The 5 big issues the wireless industry is hiding from at this year's MWC
Deutsche Telekom deploys RCS-based messaging service in Albania
Connectivity a key asset for telecoms operators, says analyst
Operators embrace Line, other OTT messaging players more- but still want to go their own way
Operators focus on voice with Wi-Fi calling and VoLTE- Year in Review