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Feature Article
September 2004


Presence in Mobile VoIP Networks
Leveraging Hidden Network Assets to Add Value to Operator Service Offerings

BY ALEX SCHNEYDERMAN

In a pervasively mobile society, access to information is no longer determined by the availability of communication media but rather by the subscriber’s willingness and ability to communicate. However, in today’s networks it is often not possible to determine if a subscriber is both willing and able to communicate, which jeopardizes the operator’s ability to offer new advanced applications. Therefore, it is imperative for operators looking for new ways to increase their network usage and drive revenues in such an environment, to enable their networks with the capability to discover and distribute the real-time subscriber state information. This information, also known as presence, is an untapped, lazy asset already available in the network.



Presence Applications & Their Value
There are essentially two types of presence applications being rapidly adopted by service provider’s networks:

The first includes presence applications addressing current network limitations such as inconsistent user availability assumptions (also known as opportunistic talk permit in Push-to-Talk (PTT) systems), and lack of real-time user information in mobile IM and converged Wi-Fi/cellular telephony. This type of presence application indirectly contributes to the operator’s bottom line by improving the user experience and service satisfaction, which makes operators’ offering more competitive and unique.

The second includes presence applications enabling new, profitable services and adding new functionality to existing services such as presence-enhanced contact lists, intelligent call routing, and location-based/presence-enhanced push services such as targeted real-time advertisements and promotions. This type of presence application brings value to operators directly by providing subscribers with new, high-value offerings and highly personalized services reducing churn and increasing usage (minutes).

Presence Technology Defined
Once an obscure concept used implicitly by vertical applications such as desktop instant messengers, presence is now in the position to become a key explicit enabler for a variety of highly personalized service offerings. Presence is defined as a collection of real-time data describing the ability and willingness of a user to communicate across specific media and devices. The presence information is discovered from network elements and end-user devices, aggregated, and propagated to interested parties, systems, and processes to facilitate call routing and communications decisions.

When implemented in mobile networks, presence technology can be extended beyond simple online status to provide a broad set of information answering questions about the subscriber, such as:

  • Who (user identity);
  • Where (geographical location);
  • When (user preferences and availability);
  • How (device capability, available communications media); and
  • Why (policies, permissions, eligibility, necessity, information type).
From a technical standpoint, current presence deployment architectures can be roughly divided into two categories:
  • Network Presence used by the network to facilitate call control; and
  • Client Presence used by user devices enabling users to make communications decisions directly.

When presence is deployed in a network form, presence discovery is used to make call routing decisions by the network based on the information received about the calling party status. This can also be used to create entirely new applications such as presence-enhanced call forwarding, which sends the call to one of the user devices with an “available” status. When presence is deployed in the client form, the presence server propagates presence information directly to the end user or the user’s client applications. For example, the information about the user’s contacts can be displayed via presence icons in the user interface of the PTT handset.

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