Cellular networks are in a greater state of change today than at any time in their history – and this brings considerable challenges to operators seeking to maximise service reliability, and minimise disruption to user experience. Increasing sophistication in mobile connectivity enables all manner of good things, but it also introduces complexity in network settings which can be challenging for operators and device manufacturers to keep track of.
Every operator – and by extension, every mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) – is working on the introduction of 5G, expansion of 4G, and switching off 2G and 3G. Where under 2G and 3G services were hardcoded into standards and devices, service settings under 4G and 5G are highly configurable within each device. 4G and 5G also enable voice and video services to move from circuit to packet technology – offering operators and MVNOs many options to manage quality and to choose bearers and routing strategies. Every operator is at a different stage in each process, meaning every network is at a different stage of evolution.
The variety of network configurations and strategies that mobile devices routinely encounter is now, therefore, considerable – yet they are expected to perform on every network in the world without issue. This presents manufacturers with a challenge: how should their devices adjust to the range of capabilities and services on each network, and respond as they move through different types of coverage? And how can operators and MVNOs make subscriber devices aware of their preferences, and update them as they undertake network evolution programmes?
With around 70% of mobile devices now independently sourced, and less than a third are provisioned and set up for specific networks, this is a challenge facing the bulk of the global market and requiring a solution with global reach. Handling the open market issue is critical for operators’ customer acquisition and retention: once a subscriber has invested in a device, they will naturally go to the network which works. And, with 2G and 3G switch-off on the horizon, there is no fall back here – it is essential the industry gets device settings right if services like VoLTE are to work properly, and operators able to implement strategies effectively.
Some operators and manufacturers have developed close working relationships to exchange device configuration information – this, however, takes considerable effort and, given the number of operators and manufacturers worldwide, such unilateral data exchange represents a very small percentage of the coverage required. Wider exchange is therefore necessary, not least because of the trend for subscribers to buy devices independently – a large and growing population of open market devices which operators cannot configure.
We have created the GSMA Network Settings Exchange, the world’s first central hub, to allow operators to post their settings in a standardised format for use by the global device manufacturing community, avoiding needless disruption as 4G and 5G become the norm. As GSMA is the provider of the TAC for all mobile device equipment types, the GSMA has relationships with all device manufacturers worldwide, making it uniquely placed to provide them with access to the settings data they need. Each setting available through the Network Settings Exchange has been standardised, so manufacturers need not debug or translate different submissions – data can be uploaded once and will then reach all manufacturers automatically in a way they can use.
GSMA Network Settings Exchange also supports network evolution phenomena, allowing operators to change their preferences and have them signalled to the device manufacturer as and when they change. Applications of NSX include support on:
- Operator-specific codes and server addresses for critical services
- Indicators of the enablement and preferences of VoLTE, ViLTE, and IMS-based supplementary services
- Quality level requirements
- Whether to use WiFi as a bearer and in what circumstances
- What to do when roaming in terms of local or home routing, use of bearers and use of legacy “G” resources
- Radio parameters and power-related settings which affect battery life
- Signalling preferences
Participation is gathering momentum, with around 200 device manufacturers currently available to receive settings. We will continue with our ambition to get the majority of manufacturers and MNOs and MVNOs from across the globe actively participating in this service.
The GSMA is inviting you to join and take advantage of this resource: to learn more about the service please visit www.gsma.com/nsx.