For some time now Sybase 365 has been quite successful in offering its IPX 365 Services. Over 80 Mobile Operators around the world are using our platform for interconnection of IP-native services like mobile data roaming over GRX, international MMS, and BlackBerry® Connectivity. But despite the industry’s global effort to make IPX the single IP-based platform for all interconnect services, Mobile Operators are still hesitant to start using IPX for the traditional services of Voice and roaming signaling.
There seem to be two reasons for this. First of all, making the strategic change from traditional circuit-switched technology to IP-based technology for these services isn’t all that obvious. After all, these services are usually running quite well on the legacy platforms so despite the promise of increased efficiencies, the attitude seems to be: if it ain’t broken, don’t try to fix it.
But more fundamentally, Mobile Operators have not been particularly impressed so far with the one key benefit offered by the IPX: that of full transparency of end-to-end costs and operational performance. This is rather ironic, considering that the IPX and in particular its transparency was originally conceived by the GSMA, an association whose membership list is dominated by Mobile Operators.
Now all of this is about to change. Under the banner of Long Term Evolution or LTE, Mobile Operators have started to deploy next generation mobile networks. Contrary to 2G and 3G mobile networks which are built around a mix of technologies, LTE uses primarily IP technology, both in the core network and on the radio network. An IPX market survey sponsored by Sybase 365 and published in August 2011 by Telecom Asia showed that Mobile Operators see IPX as being essential for the deployment of LTE-based services. In essence there are three reasons for this.
1. The need to Handle increasing volumes of data roaming traffic
Traditional mobile data roaming involves backhauling all data traffic from the Visited Network to the Home Network via a GRX. One of the ways in which LTE roaming differs from traditional mobile technologies is that it supports local break-out of traffic: whereas in 2G and 3G mobile networks, data roaming requires data connectivity to the Home Network through a GRX, in LTE roamers can be allowed to connect to the Internet locally through the Visited Network.
But though technically possible, most Mobile Operators prefer to stick to the 2G/3G model and use a GRX service. And since LTE offers more bandwidth as well as many new services, more will be required of a GRX service than just basic transport. LTE operators will be looking for a GRX service that can offer end-to-end SLAs, and that is able to deal with substantial growth of traffic.
Only a GRX service provided over an IPX network will be able to meet these requirements.
2. Enabling secure LTE roaming: Diameter
Mobile roaming involves the exchange of information between the Visited Network and the Home Network: subscription and authentication data for authenticating/authorizing user access to the Visited Network, and policy and charging control information in order to support the local breakout function. The exchange of this type of information is typically done using an AAA protocol (Authentication, Authorization and Accounting).
The AAA protocol of choice for LTE roaming is Diameter, an evolution of the well known Radius protocol. Diameter is an IP-native protocol, so naturally the LTE standardization bodies 3GPP and GSMA identified IPX as the network of choice to provide Diameter connectivity between Mobile Operator networks.
3. Interworking of new services
With the launch of LTE networks the market will see a new generation of mobile devices supporting all-IP services, typically built on IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem). The two services currently in the spotlight are good old Voice and the GSMA’s Rich Communication Suite (RCS), an effort to bring services like Instant Messaging and Presence to the handset under a mobile industry standard.
Since these new services are IP-native, interconnection between Mobile Operators will be IP based. For national IP interconnects, bilaterals are often preferred. But internationally the preferred platform for IP interconnection will be IPX. And not just for Voice and RCS, but for all IMS-based communication services.
Sybase 365 IPX already supports all of these basic requirements. The IPX MPLS core has both the quality and the capacity to comfortably deal with the increasing demands put upon it. But our ambition goes beyond providing just basic connectivity. Based on our experience with service hubs – specifically the messaging hubs for SMS and MMS – and our experience with growing Mobile Operator communities – GRX and, more recently, IPX Voice – we are launching two new IPX product sets which go hand-in-hand with the global roll-out of LTE networks: one around Diameter and one around IMS Interworking.
This Diameter product set is based on a Diameter proxy in the Sybase IPX network. As with any hub-based service, the Diameter proxy offers Mobile Operators the benefit of establishing Diameter connectivity to all of their roaming partners through a single IPX connection. Additional services include interworking between the 2G/3G world and the LTE world, and traffic management services like load balancing.
The IMS Interworking services are built around an IMS hub the IPX network. Contrary to the Diameter proxy which operates at the network level and is dedicated to just Diameter, this IMS hub operates at the application layer. It enables not just interworking for Voice over LTE and RCS but for any future IMS-based service.
Being able to set up multiple roaming and interworking destinations through a singly IPX connection is in itself of great operational value. Of greater importance is the commercial value of IPX: the potential of an IPX connection to shorten time-to-market and thus the ability to help Mobile Operators grow revenue more quickly. But eventually, only an IPX built on an excellent MPLS core network and offering the full set of essential Mobile Operators services, and IPX like that of Sybase, will able to deliver that potential.