Posts tagged ‘roaming’

Guest Post – How to better monetize LTE Roaming

Guest post written by Michael Van Veen, Global Sales Director for IPX services at SAP Mobile Services

For those of us who are walking around with LTE devices and have experienced high-speed data services, there is no going back: we feel the need for speed.  And naturally, wherever we travel we expect to get the same service performance that we experience in our home network.  We will suffer low-speed 3G connectivity if we have to, but only to get to our email or to chat with friends.  If we cannot get access to LTE for heavy-duty things like content-rich social media services, we will start looking for WiFi connectivity.

Mobile operators have always worked hard to follow their subscribers wherever they travel.  Roaming agreements make sure that their subscribers can use their device on visited networks: they can make and receive phone calls and SMS, and use data services.  The operators can even “steer” roamers to networks which are guaranteed to deliver the most commercial or technical benefits.  Now that we have entered the era of LTE, all of these efforts need to be repeated.

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LBO or not, I want to break out… (Part II)

This is Part II of Peter Nas’ blog post on local break out technology

 

Peter Nas serves as Senior Solution Architect at F5 Networks and draws from more than 20 years of telecom experience to advise operators how to leverage Diameter signaling solutions to enable the optimal LTE experience. Peter joined F5 with the company’s acquisition of Traffix where he was responsible for global business development.  Prior to joining Traffix, he worked at Tekelec focusing on market development for Diameter and SIP routing. In his days before Tekelec, he served as Core Network Engineering Manager at a prominent mobile operator in the Netherlands.

In my last blog post, I began looking at the slow progress for the deployment of LBO (local breakout) technology that will reduce mobile roaming revenues. In this post, I will suggest various ways to leverage LBO to offset the reduction in roaming revenues.

One interesting aspect of LBO is that the signaling for two additional Diameter interfaces, S9 for policy and Gy for charging, could be exchanged between visited and home networks, and if so, this will be done via an IPX network as per GSMA guidelines (IR.88). There are different views on whether or not using the S9 interface to exchange policy information between the visited PCRF and home PCRF, will be massively used once LBO is offered, but let’s assume it will be used. In this case, an IPX carrier can offer various services around Diameter interworking, security and perhaps also screening, overload control, prioritization and potentially adapting policy rules and more.

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LBO or not, I want to break out… (Part I)

This post is by Peter Nas, Senior Solution Architect, F5 Networks

Peter Nas, Senior Soltuion Architect, F5 Networks

Peter Nas, Senior Solution Architect, F5 Networks

 

For over ten years, the technology to offer local breakout (commonly known as LBO) has existed, allowing data use by roaming customers to be supported by the visited operator’s network. This is in contrast to the scenario in which data requests are sent back to the roamer’s home network, which of course, results in higher costs. However, despite the obvious fact that many people would like to get lower data roaming rates, a wish not limited to Europeans traveling in the EU, sadly it is not offered yet.

 

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Succeeding with LTE in Asia: Go for Next Generation Communication Services

Malcolm Chan, Managing Director BICS Asia-Pacific

Malcolm Chan, Managing Director, BICS, Asia-Pacific

This post is by Malcolm Chan, Managing Director, BICS, Asia-Pacific.

Asia is expected to account for almost half (forty-seven per cent) of all LTE connections by 2017, as LTE networks are rolled out in major markets such as China and India, making Asia-Pacific the world’s largest LTE market in terms of service revenue. In the face of this tremendous growth, operators need to seek innovation through Next Generation Communication Services to maintain market share and customer loyalty.

To achieve this, operators need to ensure they provide an enhanced user experience. Central to this is an enriched communication experience with IMS based services like VoLTE and Rich Communications Services (RCS).

As OTT players increase the number of VoIP and messaging services they offer their customers globally, mobile operators need to deploy VoLTE and RCS services in order to offer innovative high quality services through their unique proposition of ubiquity, global reach, quality and privacy management.

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Voice roaming needs innovative change

Itsuma Tanaka, Lead Core Network Architect, Core Network Development Department, NTT Docomo

Itsuma Tanaka, Lead Core Network Architect, Core Network Development Department, NTT Docomo

This post is by Itsuma Tanaka,  Lead Core Network Architect, Core Network Development Department, NTT Docomo

Do you actually voice roaming when you’re abroad?

When you’re calling somebody from the LTE Asia 2014 venue, or when you sit in Starbucks on the high-street, or when you’re relaxing in your hotel room—or even when you’re surfing on the sunny Maldives beach, – you generally would use free Wi-Fi and Skype.

Recently, the EU introduced new regulations that cap prices for roaming phone calls leading operators, especially in the EU region facing fears of (even more) reduced revenues. They have to reduce prices, whilst maintain existing systems.

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Interview: International Product Manager for Mobile Solutions, A1 Telekom Austria: “[The customer experience] is significantly improved when the customer’s MNO is served by an IPX provider that can offer guaranteed QoS.”

Roman WaditschatkaRoman Waditschatka, International Product Manager for Mobile Solutions, A1 Telekom Austria is speaking on the topic of “Creating a consistent customer experience when roaming,” taking place on Day Two of the 9th annual LTE Asia conference, taking place on the 23rd-25th September 2014 at the Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. Here he gives us his views on why IPX is so important for the modern network operator.

LTE roaming is starting to become a reality – what are the main challenges to making it happen?

The main challenge is having a reliable IPX provider with a flexible core network infrastructure to interconnect MNOs that can tailor itself to their needs. Telekom Austria Group’s global IPX network guarantees our customers global LTE roaming coverage by exchanging traffic with their roaming partner networks worldwide.

To what extent does having a wholesale business with knowledge of signalling issues help solve roaming challenges?

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LTE data roaming becomes affordable for everyone

Torbjorn Pettersson, Technical Sales Manager, Mobile Services, Telenor, Sweden

Torbjorn Pettersson, Technical Sales Manager, Mobile Services, Telenor, Sweden

This post is byTorbjörn A Pettersson, Manager Technical Sales and IPX Solutions

Telenor Global ServicesOver the past few years I have experienced a number of examples where customers have experienced “bill shock” after returning home from travelling abroad. The good news in Europe is that since July this year additional EU regulations have made data roaming more affordable, and this is a trend that is about to go global.

What is the catalyst for this new trend? There are so many data-hungry apps on smartphones and tablets being used by people of all ages. In a workshop during the last LTE World Summit in Amsterdam several operators gave similar observations from different segments—not only SME customers. This means that data retail prices are bundled (daily or weekly bundling for example), which make the data roaming much cheaper, and at the same time increase the operators roaming data revenues worldwide.

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WiFi Offload/Roaming Part 3: Diameter and LTE Interworking Is Crucial

Jim Machi, Dialogic

Jim Machi, vice president of product management for Dialogic

In my last blog I discussed the architectures needed to roam between WiFi and 3G/4G networks. In order to enable interoperability between the different architectures, a mediation and interworking platform is required to support the different scenarios in which RADIUS, Diameter and SS7 are used.

fig1_p3

As discussed in my prior blogs, RADIUS is critical for interworking with WiFi networks. Authentication and authorization of roaming subscribers is performed through RADIUS messages over an inter-operator interface between the visited network provider and home service provider. The interface can be implemented directly between two operators or through an intermediary, like an IPX or WRIX provider. The interworking functionality can be placed within either the visited or home operator’s networks, an IPX/WRIX provider or all three locations.

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Wi-Fi Offload/Roaming Part 2: Wi-Fi, 3G/4G Roaming and Interworking Architectures

Jim Machi, Dialogic

Jim Machi, vice president of product management for Dialogic

By Jim Machi, vice president of product management for Dialogic, where he is responsible for driving the overall roadmap and product strategy.

In my last blog, I discussed Wi-Fi roaming and the WRIX. The WRIX, an IPX-like exchange for Wi-Fi roaming, is broken into three levels that cover the various interactions needed between operators to support roaming.

First is the WRIX-i, or interconnect, which specifies the interface between the visited network provider (VNP) and the home service provider (HSP). WRIX-i requires use of RADIUS authentication, authorization and accounting (AAA) procedures and some specific attributes associated with access and accounting services. The WRIX-d is for data clearing and wholesale accounting. Lastly, the WRIX-I is for financial clearing and wholesale billing.

The WRIX specifications provide a high degree of interoperability between Wi-Fi operators, but real-world implementation has some obstacles. For example, it may still require RADIUS-to-RADIUS mediation and the need for interworking functionality with other signaling protocols to correct incompatibilities between operator networks. This is because one implementation of RADIUS may not exactly match another implementation of RADIUS. Plus, in order to accommodate roaming over a diverse set of user devices and network implementations, Wi-Fi and 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) network architectures will need to provide interworking between different protocols used for AAA, as well as mediate between variations of the same protocol.

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LTE Is Not the Answer – But Wi-Fi Might Be

Jim Machi, Dialogic

Jim Machi, vice president of product management for Dialogic

By Jim Machi, vice president of product management for Dialogic, where he is responsible for driving the overall roadmap and product strategy.

Right now, LTE is in its heyday. Carriers are doing all they can to expand coverage and improve speeds, and those lucky enough to be using it probably experience great service. But as mobile data use increases, that honeymoon period will end as networks get clogged and overloaded.

As that happens, Wi-Fi networks will become an increasingly important way for carriers to improve coverage and capacity. This is opening new opportunities not only for pure-play Wi-Fi providers, but also for mobile network operators (MNOs) implementing complementary Wi-Fi networks as a means to expand coverage, decrease the cost per delivered bit and ease congestion on strained spectrum and backhaul resources.

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Interview: International Affairs and Policy Coordinator, Türk Telekom “Changes in roaming… will place considerable burden on the already troubled EU telecoms sector.”

Dr. Mustafa Aykut, International Affairs and Policy Coordinator for Türk Telekom

Dr. Mustafa Aykut, International Affairs and Policy Coordinator for Türk Telekom

Turkey has yet to roll out LTE as it awaits spectrum allocation. Dr. Mustafa Aykut, International Affairs and Policy Coordinator for Türk Telekom talks us through some of the complex issues and explains his objections to the EU banning roaming charges.

Dr. Aykut, is taking part in a panel discussion entitled: “Assessing successful and innovative deployment strategies”, taking place on Day Two of the LTE World Summit, the premier 4G event for the telecoms industry, taking place on the 23rd-26th June 2014, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands.

What are the main challenges of rolling out LTE in Turkey?

Currently, there is no roadmap regarding spectrum related actions for LTE roll-out as 800 MHz band will not be cleared until June 2015. Furthermore, problems associated with the unfair allocation of GSM bands continue to have an impact. The fair allocation of existing bands is a prerequisite for LTE launch and technology-neutral use of spectrum.

Internet security is an issue that is always high on the agenda. Do you think that operators should be doing more to protect their customers?

In Turkey, all ISPs operate in accordance with the regulations set by the regulation authority, ICTA, with regards to internet security related issues. However, it is important for operators to raise awareness among users about internet security to ensure the safety of their customers and their information.

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Going for Customer Satisfaction Gold at Sochi 2014

Barry Marron, Director, Marketing

Barry Marron, Director, Marketing, Openet

This post is by Barry Marron, Director, Marketing, Openet

Last week, thousands of people from all over the world flocked to Sochi, Russia to observe and participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics. It is likely that everyone in attendance will want to make the most of their experience by streaming video of their favorite event or to call home and report back on the standings.

However, Thomas Gryta at the Wall Street Journal was quick to point out that most telecom companies neglected to drop roaming fees for their customer’s attending the Olympic Games, making it difficult for people to use their mobile devices. So how can operators hope to go for gold in customer satisfaction if a decent portion of their customers may suffer from bill shock once the Games are over?

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Tackling LTE Roaming Challenges

Matthew Tonkin, Global Head, IPX Business, SAP Mobile Services

Matthew Tonkin, Global Head, IPX Business, SAP Mobile Services

Once again the mobile industry is entering a new phase of technological change. With the proliferation of data services and smartphones, the mobile operator community is working to address the increasing need for bandwidth with the rollout of next generation 4G networks.

As operators launch LTE services in their home markets, consumers will naturally expect the same quality experience everywhere— especially when they are abroad. In view of this, mobile operators that deploy LTE networks in their domestic markets are starting to review available options to ensure LTE services allow seamless roaming overseas.

The first users of LTE will typically be VIP customers or key corporate accounts, a segment made up of high-end users and frequent travellers. To serve these premium customers operators will need to address LTE roaming requirements sooner, rather than later.

Prepare for roaming

LTE enables new services such as video streaming, HD voice and Voice over LTE applications. However, these services also put high demands on the data roaming backbone and require much more bandwidth and resilient network connectivity.  As mobile operators review their LTE Roaming connectivity options, they will need to consider the following business and technical factors in preparation to enable LTE Roaming:

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Interview: Director of Engineering, Union Wireless (USA): “Right now we are still in a wait-and-see approach on VoLTE.”

Kevin M. Kleinsmith, Director of Engineering, Union Wireless (USA)

Kevin M. Kleinsmith, Director of Engineering, Union Wireless (USA)

Kevin M. Kleinsmith, Director of Engineering, Union Wireless (USA) is speaking on the subjects of VoLTE and backhaul at the LTE North America conference, taking place on the 21st-22nd November 2013, in Dallas, Texas, USA. Ahead of the show we speak to him about the details of what is required to implement VoLTE on a network.

Is there any difference between the challenges of VoLTE roaming within the US, and roaming internationally?

There are several key differences in domestic roaming and international roaming. The biggest challenges come from the way the VoLTE call would be handled by a local breakout or would it have to go all the way back to the home network. Breaking it out as local as possible would be ideal, however, now we have to change the way the billing is currently handled. The GSMA-NA groups related to this, such as IREG and BARG, are trying to resolve the best practices, but until the industry agrees on a practice, a lot of smaller companies are simply going to have to rely on their major partners or third-party vendors on the proper solutions given their specific relationships.

The LTE North America conference is taking place on the 21st-22nd November 2013, in Dallas, Texas, USA. Click here NOW to download a brochure for the event.

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Interview: Global Head of Carrier Services, Telstra Global, Singapore: “LTE requires a changed approach to deliver roaming agreements.”

Bernadette Noujaim-Baldwin, Global Head of Carrier Services, Telstra Global, Singapore

Bernadette Noujaim-Baldwin, Global Head of Carrier Services, Telstra Global, Singapore

Bernadette Noujaim-Baldwin, Global Head of Carrier Services, Telstra Global, Singapore is speaking on Day Two of the LTE Asia conference, taking place on the 18th September 2013 at the Suntec, Singapore. 

What have been the biggest milestones for Telstra Global’s IPX network over the past year?

The rapid expansion of our customer base, and the clarification of our IPX roadmap and journey for the future.  By talking with existing and potential customers, Telstra Global has developed a clear understanding of the concerns of our LTE customers, and also their vision of where LTE will take them in their home market, allowing us to support those advancements to their remote partners.   We have had many exciting and innovative conversations with service and content providers, enabling us to have a strong roadmap for the future. The adoption of LTE and in turn IPX means having a view of the future and not just today.

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Local Breakout – A new challenge for networks

Michel van Veen, IPX business manager for SAP Mobile Services

Michel van Veen, IPX business manager for SAP Mobile Services

Going on holiday this summer? In this post, Michel van Veen, IPX business manager for SAP Mobile Services takes a look at the how Local Breakout and IPX will enable operators to meet the strategic challenges presented when customers roam.

As LTE rollouts gain pace, consumers will have access to new networks and higher data speed. While it will take time for the end-user market to catch-up with the industry’s perceptions, the industry still needs to address certain expectations around LTE.

 

At first glance the roaming advantages dominate the LTE experience. Local Breakout, a mechanism where roaming traffic does not traverse back to the home network and is handled by the local operator, allows for cheaper tariffs and will also bring increased localised revenue. The challenge for the network operators is to understand how and where the placement of Local Breakout can be advantageous for them.

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Vice president, Mobile System Development, Nordic and Baltics, TeliaSonera: “We see that that 4G roaming is a clear requirement from our customers.”

Tommy Ljunggren, vice president, Mobile System Development, Nordic and Baltics, TeliaSonera

Tommy Ljunggren, vice president, Mobile System Development, Nordic and Baltics, TeliaSonera

Following the successful LTE Awards 2013, we speak to Tommy Ljunggren, vice president, Mobile System Development, Nordic and Baltics, TeliaSonera about the company’s win for its 4G roaming service in the Best LTE Roaming Product or Service category.

Tell us more about your entry for the LTE Awards 2013

TeliaSonera was first in the world to launch a commercial 4G/LTE service on 14 December 2009. Since then we have been the first operator to launch 4G/LTE in all the Nordic and Baltic countries in which we operate. For these achievements we also won an LTE Awards in 2010 and 2011.

What do you think made your entry stand out from the crowd?

Our entry this time was based on the fact that we were the first operator in Europe, and one of the first in the world, to launch commercial 4G roaming, and have real life experience from this.

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Roaming with Voice in LTE networks

Mats Lindberg, Business Solutions Director, Polystar Group

Mats Lindberg, Business Solutions Director, Polystar Group

This post is by Mats Lindberg, Business Solutions Director, Polystar Group.

Roaming is a fundamental part of the mobile telecoms customer experience and it is essential to support it in every generation of technology. LTE has been introduced on all continents already and will be gradually rolled throughout all networks. LTE provides cost-effective and fast multimedia mobile data services and helps drive value through an improved subscriber quality of experience.

As subscribers roam between the LTE and GSM/UMTS networks, operators ensure continuity of the voice service with minimal service disruptions. However, international roaming capability for the next generation mobile services still remains a big challenge.

We believe LTE roaming will contribute to the success of LTE, irrespectively of hard pressure from different governments and EU with regards to tariffs, cap of traffic/cost, notification of usage etc.

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LTE in Africa – Different Dimensions

Mauro Fondacaro, Sales Manager IPX, SAP Mobile Services

Mauro Fondacaro, Sales Manager IPX, SAP Mobile Services

This post is by Mauro Fondacaro, Sales Manager IPX, SAP Mobile Services.

Africa is a varied continent and the first few countries and operators that have launched or are testing LTE in Africa provide a variety of reasons to do so. Beginning with the obvious choice, South Africa, three key operators have launched LTE in the country. MTN, Cell C and Vodacom have all launched FDD-LTE networks in bands ready for LTE roaming.

South Africa has a mature telecom market with the highest ARPU among all African countries and is an expected choice to launch LTE. With reduced profit potential from core services, operators here are looking to push profitability through high speed data services.

 Country Operator Frequency Status
Angola Movicel 1800 MHz Live
Mauritius Orange 1800 MHz Live
Mauritius EMTEL 1800 MHz Live
Namibia MTC 1800 MHz Live
South Africa Cell C Live
South Africa MTN 1800 MHz Live
South Africa Vodacom 1800 MHz Live
Tanzania Smile 800 MHz Live
Uganda Smile 800 MHz Live

But, it’s not all about South Africa; the small island country, Mauritius which has a population of 1.2 million is also one of the first few to launch LTE. Country’s mobile operators as the economy run on tourism. Tourism contributes about 10 per cent to the country’s GDP and an astounding one million tourists are expected to visit Mauritius in 2013. Here, the evolution into LTE is not driven by the need for speed, but rather by the need to support LTE roaming customers.

Angola, Tanzania and Uganda have also launched LTE, and it would be relevant to highlight the penetration of fixed-line broadband in these countries- just 0.12%, 0.007% and 0.25% respectively, thanks to the lack of high capacity backbone infrastructure. Here, many mobile operators are jumping straight from GPRS to LTE, enabling a greater leap in data speed and some plan to evolve the parallel technology standard, WiMax to LTE thus making LTE the default broadband option in the region.

Fixed broadband penetration in these countries is very low and enabling data connectivity through LTE would give the subscribers immense economic opportunity. Operators understand the value of mobile broadband and are trying to shift the perception of mobile phone from something that lets you talk to a device to something that lets you connect to internet. For example, scratch cards that subscribers use to recharge their phone have started displaying their value in terms of data rather than voice.

ARPU in Africa is about $4-6 and data revenue contribution is even lower. Purchasing power apparently appears to be a big barrier to break in these markets, but in my opinion it’s about the value of the service and I would say that subscribers in emerging markets pay more than developed market subscribers. For example, a Kenyan operator’s ARPU is about 7 per cent of average income, whereas an American operator’s ARPU is about 0.2 per cent of average income. As African market players have leapfrogged the entry barrier to drive mobile penetration in spite of many odds, they can also leapfrog the LTE entry barrier.

SAP are exhibiting next week at the LTE Africa conference, taking place on the 9th-10th July 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa. Click here to download the brochure for the event.

Interview: Executive Director, ICT Institute, Indonesia: “4G, will have a great positive impact on the Indonesian community’s economy and job creation prospects.”

Heru Sutadi, founder and executive director, ICT Institute, Indonesia

Heru Sutadi, founder and executive director, ICT Institute, Indonesia

Heru Sutadi, founder and executive director, ICT Institute, Indonesia is appearing on Day One of the LTE World Summit taking place on the 24th-26th June 2013, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands. Ahead of the show we find out more about this thoughts on the issues of roaming spectrum harmonisation.

What overall impact has the development of advanced telecom services, and specifically 4G, had in Indonesia?

Telecommunications developments, and in particular 4G, will have a great positive impact on the Indonesian community’s economy and job creation prospects. As a predominantly mobile broadband country, Indonesia requires the latest wireless technology because the public need high-speed access, putting pressure on the operators to provide a higher quality of service for its users.

What areas need to be focussed on to improve the environment for LTE roaming?

To develop LTE roaming, a suitable environment should be built, the focus of this being the harmonisation of frequencies in the region and around the world. This will then enable interoperability between mobile devices and customer premises equipment (CPE). Without proper regard for interoperability, and the use of LTE/4G frequencies that do not match the frequency allocation used in other countries, roaming will of course be a problem.

How important will spectrum harmonisation be for the mobile technology that follows LTE?

Harmonisation of the frequency spectrum will be very important as it will help lower the price of mobile device and CPE and also improve interoperability for users when roaming abroad.

What do you think will be the most exciting development in telecoms in the next two years?

In the next two years, the speed and capacity of telecommunications equipment will increase. This needs to be done to meet the challenges of rapid increase in the demand for data. Large files such as video will dominate but other applications will also be so important, because what is the use of a high-speed network if it is only used for conversations or SMS.

Why is the LTE World Summit such a critical event in your calendar?

The LTE summit is very important because through this event we can see and hear the latest developments in technology and establish communications and networking with all parties in the world involved with the development of LTE.

The LTE World Summit, the premier 4G event for the telecoms industry, is taking place on the 24th-26th June 2013, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands. Click here to download a brochure for the event.

Interview: CTIO, Etisalat, UAE: “Applications that enhance the customer experience will help us monetise our investments.”

Marwan Zawaydeh is the CTIO of Etisalat, UAE.

Marwan Zawaydeh is the CTIO of Etisalat, UAE.

Marwan Zawaydeh is the CTIO of Etisalat, UAE. He will be speaking on Day Two of the LTE World summit taking place on the on the 24th-26th June 2013, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands. Ahead of the show we speak to him about the latest developments in LTE in the region and learn more about his views on RCS, roaming and LTE monetisation. 

We spoke to you this time last year. How has your LTE network developed since then?  

These were very exciting 12 months for Etisalat and for our customers, and we are looking forward to build on this success to continue to lead innovation in the region and provide our customers the latest in technology. We were able to significantly enhance LTE coverage, which has now reached 80 per cent of the populated area. Coverage will be further enhanced further this year as the number of deployed sites will double. We were also able to bring a very rich portfolio of LTE terminals which includes dongles, a Mi-Fi, and popular smartphones from Apple, Samsung, and Blackberry. We were able to secure exclusive deals with these top manufacturers and were able to provide our customers with very attractive packages. This resulted in significant growth of our mobile data traffic as our customers adopted LTE enthusiastically. This has resulted in a significant increase in the ARPU from our mobile customers.

Can you give me examples of a couple of your biggest challenges that you faced?

The first challenge we had was to provide proper coverage to our LTE customers. We started with the 2.6GHz band because it was the only band available at the time. This gave us regional leadership in LTE until enough spectrum in the 1.8GHz band became available.  Another big challenge was the fragmentation of the LTE global deployment and the difficulty in bringing a comprehensive LTE eco-system to our customers. We had to expedite the introduction of the 1.8GHz band to be able to provide our customers the best-in-class LTE smart phones and LTE devices.

The LTE World Summit, the premier 4G event for the telecoms industry, is taking place on the 24th-26th June 2013, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands. Click here to download a brochure for the event.

How do you meet the challenge of offering good value to the consumer and at the same time monetising your investments?

This challenge can only be met when investments result in superior customer experience and access to new and innovative products and services. Fortunately, LTE is all about providing our mobile customers much higher throughput, lower latency, and an overall superior customer experience. But this wouldn’t be possible unless we looked at our network end-to-end. Many operators struggle in backhauling LTE traffic and that results in a deteriorated customer experience. Etisalat had a vision several years ago to invest heavily in the fibre network as a converged and future-proof platform. The UAE is currently number one globally in deep fibre deployment because of Etisalat. Our fibre-rich network enabled us to provide GigE connectivity to all our mobile sites to provide an unmatched customer experience. At the same time, continuing to flatten the network architecture helped us enhance the cost effectiveness of our deployment and significantly enhance the overall delivered value to our customers. Applications that enhance the customer experience will help us monetise our investments.

An example of that is eLifeTV, which provides our customers with access to live HD channels and HD video content. We are finding it to be very popular in our market and now we have the platform to enable it we will continue to introduce similar services.

How important is LTE roaming for your customers and what are the challenges in enabling it?

UAE has a unique characteristic of a huge expat population that roam a lot so it is important to facilitate LTE roaming as early as possible, but there are several challenges that still remain.

Current roaming agreements do not provide the required QoS, SLA, and security requirements for enriched LTE services. Etisalat is in the process of deploying an IPX Hub to enhance the roaming capabilities,not only for data traffic, but also for high value voice and rich communication services in the future. Etisalat’s goal is not only to provide roaming to customers in our local market but to become a roaming hub for other operators as well.

What are your plans for RCS-based services and are you excited about them?

We believe enriched services such as RCS are the future and we are actively exploring various options of introducing RCS services as part of our portfolio of innovative products and services. Actually, we already have the required back-end system, which will ensure a fast time to market. We are working with our marketing team to determine the right market-entry strategy for these services in UAE.

Why is the best thing for you about attending the LTE World Summit?

We are always keen on attending the LTE World Summit to share our experience and learn from other leading operators. The telecom industry is very dynamic and mobile technology is evolving fast. Etisalat takes pride in consistently taking a leadership in the MENA region and providing our customers with the most innovative technologies and best in class products and services. Attending the LTE World Summit helps us travel fast through the experience curve via engagement with the top operators and vendors in the industry.

Interview: VP, networks and systems, Communications Research Centre, Canada: “We are going to learn a lot about small cells and SON (self-organizing heterogeneous networks) from LTE.”

Dr. Alex Vukovic, vice-president, networks and systems, for Communications Research Centre (CRC), Canada

Dr. Alex Vukovic, vice-president, networks and systems, for Communications Research Centre (CRC), Canada

The Communications Research Centre (CRC) is Canada’s federal centre of excellence for wireless telecommunications R&D and a leading contributor to solutions for wireless demand in a modern economy. Dr. Alex Vukovic, vice-president, networks & systems, for CRC, is appearing on Day One of the LTE World Summit, the premier 4G event for the telecoms industry, taking place on the 24th-26th June 2013 at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands.

With so many bands already being used for LTE, can it truly be considered a worldwide standard?

Although there are many bands in which LTE can operate, LTE is considered a worldwide standard. According to the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), 163 commercial networks are already launched in 67 countries, with 415 operators in 124 countries now investing in LTE. The same source forecasts that there will be 248 commercial LTE networks in 87 countries by the end of 2013.

What are the best frequencies for operators to focus on if they wish to have a roaming capable band?

This is a real challenge facing service operators. The bands are so fragmented and diverse and often tied to legacy systems. Having globally available bands, which will enable worldwide roaming and interoperability using compatible end-user devices, is currently difficult due to the lack of global harmonisation of spectrum. Moreover, it would be very difficult to render any existing bands due to regulatory and policy challenges presented in each specific administration. To ensure true global roaming, administrations need to adopt directives and spectrum-use policies that support globally harmonised bands for LTE.

It is obvious that there would be many benefits from having global spectrum harmonisation, such as enabling of roaming capabilities, economy of scale, cross-border operation and coordination, interoperability and efficient use of available spectrum. To me, from both technological and practical standpoints, there are several bands of interests for potential solutions to global roaming. For example, the 2.6 GHz band is widely available for LTE systems in both FDD and TDD formats. In the future, we may see the 3.5GHz band and bands in the 600MHz range become home to a collection of LTE systems.

The LTE World Summit, the premier 4G event for the telecoms industry, is taking place on the 24th-26th June 2013, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands. Click here to download a brochure for the event.

Are there any good economic reasons for operators to make LTE roaming more affordable or will lower charges only come through regulatory moves?

Operators have to respect economic conditions. If they see their source of revenue derived from roaming diminishing due to competition, they will be enticed to reduce roaming rates. The bottom line is that mobile network operators always have to look to maintain revenue streams and profitability. However, competition is probably the most viable economic reason for operators to make roaming more affordable.

Nowadays, we have moved into a world of feature-rich content provided over mobile networks, and much of this content is generated by sources other than mobile network operators (from Google, Apple, YouTube, etc.). This poses additional challenges to operators.

Regulatory decisions could indeed impact the affordability of roaming, although the fiscal health of operators would need to be considered before such decisions are made.

Should operators talk to each other on a one-to-one basis or is there a more open way of discussing roaming needs?

Given the type of roaming/equipment commonality problems being faced, I believe that finding a global solution requires more than just service providers discussing amongst themselves. Service providers can easily come up with roaming agreements if their customers’ smart phones and tablets operate on the same bands. This is a complex issue which requires dialog between network equipment manufacturers, end-user device producers, regulatory bodies and service providers.

Traditionally, operators from region to region or country to country establish roaming agreements between themselves. Normally, a clearinghouse is used to transfer billing records and/or perform financial clearing functions among mobile network operators consistent with their roaming agreements.

What lessons do you think can be learned for the technology beyond LTE?

LTE is just in its infancy and all of the features that it can deliver have yet to be fully exploited. We are going to learn a lot about small cells and SON (self-organizing heterogeneous networks) from LTE and its advances. LTE will also teach us about implementing more sophisticated antenna platform technology for smart pads.

We may also make interesting discoveries related to cross-layer communications and to handoff between macro/micro cell systems, such as LTE-to-WiFi handover. This last technology piece will be exciting as it has the potential of devising new kinds of service provisioning concepts that may do much to change the service-provider landscape. The evolutionary development to watch over the next 5-10 years involves the adaptations and evolutions that occur as Wi-Fi and LTE search to find applications niches beyond what they are today.

However, one of the biggest findings so far is that technology interoperability alone, as delivered by LTE, cannot solve the global roaming challenge – a level of global spectrum harmonisation in emerging spectrum allocations is also necessary.

What do you think will be the most exciting development in telecoms in the next two years?

The near future will be very interesting for the global build-out of LTE. Due to the explosive growth of traffic and non-homogeneous nature of traffic in a service area, development of wireless heterogeneous networks will be considered a viable possibility.  This will evolve to wireless heterogeneous networks that add to the macro cell capacity by using small cells (microcell, femtocell, handover to Wi-Fi, etc.) as an underlay to the macro coverage. However, the successful implementation of heterogeneous networks faces many challenges in using small cells (e.g. complex interoperation, media-independent handover, billing, interference mitigation, etc.).

Another exciting development will be the emergence of higher-capacity short-range offloading technologies following in the line of Wi-Fi offloading. Unlike heterogeneous networks mentioned above, short-range offloading will focus on the home, office and public hotspot environments by providing hundreds of Mbps over ranges of up to 100 metres.

Interview: LTE roaming business development, Orange Group: “All communications has turned to 4G – it’s a hit!”

Laurent Pouillieute, LTE roaming business development, Orange Group

Laurent Pouillieute, LTE roaming business development, Orange Group

Laurent Pouillieute, LTE roaming business development, Orange Group is speaking on Day One of the LTE World Summit, the premier 4G event for the telecoms industry, taking place on the 24th-26th June 2013, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands. Ahead of the show we speak to him about what the challenges that lie ahead for 4G, particularly around roaming.

What major developments have there been with regards to the LTE industry in your region this past year?

2012 was a busy year with several 4G domestic launches in each EU country [we operate in] and 2013 is proving much bigger. On the devices side, the trend of 4G compatible devices is clearly increasing. All communications has turned to 4G – it’s a hit! On the 4G roaming side 2012 was a year of preparation and in 2013 things are starting to happen for regional roaming.

What are the technical challenges involved in enabling roaming?

While 3G roaming is mature in EU, with all services open, 4G roaming has raised new challenges for the industry. These are:

–          device band support is still an issue for worldwide roaming. Hopefully, at regional level compatibility is fine but it is clearly a limitation for fast worldwide 4G roaming.

–          LTE network interoperability, first days of LTE roaming would be busy with debugging all new 4G routes (time & resources).

–          LTE roaming timing; to try to reduce the time between LTE domestic and roaming launch.

–          VoLTE is a real challenge and the industry (including devices) need to deploy it fast in the next few years. The right interconnect model has to be found in order to ensure end-to-end QoS and we strongly believe that we need an IPX overlay to deliver that.

What do you think will have to be done to get LTE roaming to become the norm?

Having one single common/universal band everywhere would clearly help the roaming business to deploy faster on all regions.

The LTE World Summit, the premier 4G event for the telecoms industry, is taking place on the 24th-26th June 2013, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands. Click here to download a brochure for the event.

Will Wi-Fi offset the need for roaming?

I do not believe Wi-Fi will offset the need for 4G roaming. Indeed, 4G offers much better response time, bandwidth, QoS, and transparent customer experience and better coverage and mobility.

Pricing for LTE, particularly for roaming is a controversial subject. Are operators getting it right?

Pricing for LTE reflects both MNO’s investments in deploying 4G quickly and with maximum coverage and improving services and the customer experience. Roaming pricing has been regulated in some regions (such as the EU price caps), and this could help to develop usage.

What do you think will be the most exciting new development in LTE in 2013?

LTE will bring faster speeds and much lower latencies, opening up the possibilities for applications that we have not even imagined yet. What is exciting is the capacity to deliver end-to-end QoS thanks to that investment, and for that we need to find the right operating models, giving everyone its fair share of revenue (network operator, carrier, content provider and end user).

iPhone 5 expands LTE support but European/US roaming headaches remain

As the dust finally settles post iPhone, the tech blogs and comments sections the internet over are overflowing as Apple vs Android owners get embroiled in largely pointless arguments over the various merits of their preferred platform. As far as my own predictions based on rumours go, the only significant things I got wrong were the name (iPhone 5, not the new iPhone-phew) – and the lack of 800MHz LTE support, which I’ll get onto shortly. (It all mounted to a rather anti-climatic reveal, which made me long for the days when Apple announcement leaks were rare).

As far as we’re concerned though the major news of course was that, as was entirely expected, the iPhone 5 now offers LTE support. Crucially, for European and Asian operators and their customers, the iPhone 5 now supports their networks too, thus avoiding the disappointment that many faced when they realised that the iPad 3, which was touted as 4G capable, in fact only operated on US, Canadian and Japanese LTE networks.

This time, Apple has laid out the exact specs of what countries that will get LTE support, but there are still a couple of major LTE limitations that some may not realise.

The Verizon iPhone 5 can roam between the the US and Europe on LTE- but the other two iPhone variants can’t

There are three SKU’s of iPhone 5 with different LTE chips– (the A1428) a GSM model supporting AT&T in the US and Canadian networks, and the A1429 CDMA model for Verizon, Sprint and KDDI in Japan and the A1429 GSM model for the rest of the world.

This means that if you buy an iPhone 5 in Europe, you won’t be able to roam in the US on LTE, at all. However, the CDMA A1429 supports 1800MHz, so if you buy that one in the US, you should then be able to use in on 1800MHz LTE networks in the UK such as EE.

Secondly, there is no support for 800MHZ and 2.6GHz frequencies at all, which many operators, such as O2 and Vodafone in the UK, will be using for LTE once the auctions are complete and they get their networks up and running. Therefore their customers are going to have to wait for the iPhone 6 to get LTE support.

This is a double whammy blow for O2 and Vodafone in the UK, as on top of losing customers defecting to EE to get LTE now, they also have to contend with the fact that some customer’s may not be willing to commit to a two-year contract on the iPhone 5.

The LTE chip inside the iPhone 5 is Qualcomm’s MDM9615M. It’s a very impressive chip, built on a 28nm manufacturing process which makes for low power consumption yet still supports LTE in both FDD and TDD flavours and 3G in DC-HSPA+, EV-DO Rev-B and TD-SCDMA guise – the latter making it well suited for China.

However, the multiple frequencies required for LTE clearly make it impractical to offer a single chip version and maintain performance and power. It looks as though we’ll have to wait at least a year for Europe/Asia and US support in a single device, Apple or otherwise, while the ‘world-phone’ status that the iPhone 4S offered to become a reality in a highly fragmented LTE world.

LTE roaming is one of the many topics on the agenda at the LTE Asia conference, coming up NEXT WEEK at the Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. If you’re interesting in attending, there’s still time to register here.

LTE everywhere, but not a drop to drink

The LTE World Summit 2012 finished earlier this week, and by and large it was a great success – with the great and the good of the mobile industry interested in LTE (which is pretty much everyone), attending in some form or another.

While it was a success an issue did crop up was that while wifi was available in the exhibition hall, it was not freely available in he Plenary. For anyone who enjoys tweeting this is something of an issue. Tweeting is a spontaneous art form, and once you’ve memorised what you want to say, left the room, gone down two floors, gone into the exhibition hall and waiting for your phone, your tweet may well have gone stale.

Fundamentally, the root cause of the issue is one that strikes at the heart of the issues that the conference was addressing – that I could not tweet as I refused to turn on my data connection for fear of the outrageous roaming charges. There has been movement in this area – the EU has recommended caps on reducing charges and O2 has responded by announcing rates much lower than there – but they won’t kick on until July this year. (I’m on Giffgaff, an o2 (Telefonica) MNVO, so we’ll see if this gets passed on).

Wifi offload was also one of the big topics of conversation at the conference and while interference from multiple hotspots was not an issue, congestion from too many requests was – highlighting one of that technology’s drawbacks.

What we’re all dreaming of is to be able to use our phones abroad as we would at home – on fast, effective LTE networks. That’s the vision we’re all driving towards. Of course if we were already there – living the dream, or at least, tweeting the dream, they’d probably be no need for an LTE conference in the first place, which would just not do at all. As such, I’m looking forward to great LTE coverage at affordable prices – at the 5G conference coming your way soon.

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