Isabelle Paradis, President of research company Hot Telecom is moderating a panel entitled: : “Ensuring MNOs can provide a seamless roaming service”, including senior execs from Orange and taking place on Day One of the 10th annual LTE World Summit, taking place on the 23rd-26th June 2014, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands. Ahead of the show we sound her out on one of the hot LTE topics of the moment-roaming,
As customers get used to 4G at home, they will want it abroad – why is making it happen not straightforward?
Probably the biggest challenge to 4G roaming is that the regulators in each country assigned different frequencies to the rollout of 4G (LTE) and so the phone manufacturers had to scramble to fit many different radio capabilities in each phone – this is getting better, but can still create issues. Then, of course, operators also have the key challenge of enabling LTE roaming on a global basis almost from day one.
First of all, 4G has not been launched in every country and until it has the phones will switch back to the slower 3G capabilities. Even where LTE has been launched within a country it will not be available everywhere. In most cases, the technology will be launched in major cities and deployed in more rural areas thereafter. So here again, access to 4G will be patchy for some time to come.
But more importantly, new roaming agreements and interconnections will have to be negotiated between operators to support this new type of IP traffic and this can take time and money. This is where IPX comes into play. Operators are able to interconnect to a handful of IPX hubs, which offer a large number of LTE roaming destinations, enabling operators to support 4G on a widespread basis with minimal effort, time and cost.
How can operators successfully monetise LTE roaming?
I think there are two prerequisites to successfully monetise LTE roaming:
- The roaming packages offered
- The LTE roaming agreements and network arrangements
The first one is crucial as if there is no traffic, there will definitely be no money. If operators are unable to come to terms with the fact that roaming packages need to decrease in price and get closer to what customers are used to paying when at home, the service will never take off, as was the case really with 3G roaming where it is said that between 70%-80% of roamers switch-off their phone as soon as they arrive in another country. If roaming packages do not become more affordable, customers will increasingly find alternatives to roaming, whether through OTT solutions, Wi-Fi and local/global SIMs and the substitutes will only increase as time goes by.
The second prerequisite to LTE roaming monetization success is for operators to ensure they can support the traffic at all times and in as many locations as possible to optimize customer experience and hopefully convince roamers to switch their phone on when abroad. This requires a strong scalable network with global reach, backed-up by roaming agreements that not only ensure that competitive packages can be offered (which means low wholesale rates), but also ensures quality and availability guaranteed through Service Level Agreements and strict KPIs.
IPX is a buzz word is the LTE space: Why is it important for operators to understand it and what benefits can it bring?
IPX is the solution to a multitude of IP evils. From security, guaranteed quality and availability, IPX offers a global termination solution for all services over a single pipe. In addition, it covers multiple interconnections through a single commercial agreement with an IPX hub, giving instantaneous world access to operators migrating their interconnections to IP. It almost sounds too good to be true.
Migration of all services to IP is becoming a reality as we speak, not only for voice but also for data and signalling services. In addition, with the proliferation of LTE, customers are getting used to accessing bandwidth hungry content and media from everywhere, on any devices and at all times. This is an epic challenge for operators as they have to find a solution to support these expectations at home and abroad over a rapidly scalable high quality link, and IPX is it.
Is IPX really necessary for operators looking to enable LTE roaming?
LTE roaming does not necessarily have to be transported over IPX, but if operators want to prepare for the traffic explosion expected, the GRX will not be able to support it in the longer term. Technically, GRX can transport LTE roaming traffic, however it would struggle to keep up with the speed of connection that LTE will require, as it was never designed to transport the scale of data traffic we expect LTE to generate.
IPX was designed by the GSMA as the evolution of GRX for the interconnection of IP services between not only mobile operators but also for the interoperability between fixed, mobile, media and OTT providers.
In addition, IPX roaming hubs enable mobile operators to offer LTE roaming to most of the LTE operators though a handful of connections. Alternately, if mobile operators were to renegotiate and migrate their roaming interconnections one by one with their partners, this would take years and would cost millions. IPX makes mobile operators’ life simpler while saving time and money.
Roaming aside, what are the biggest issues now facing operators around LTE?
In my opinion, the biggest issue will be the support of the extraordinary traffic growth which will be generated by LTE and the multimedia applications that come with it. Operators will have to find solutions to support this growth, which will come almost overnight, while maintaining high quality services, 100 per cent availability as well as ensuring profitability in a world where customers are getting used to free all-you-can eat telecom applications and services. This is quite a challenge.
The 10th annual LTE World Summit, the premier 4G event for the telecoms industry, is taking place on the 23rd-26th June 2014, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands. Click here to download a brochure for the event.