How operators can maintain compatibility with a diverse device ecosystem

GSMA’s Product Director, Shamit Bhat, explains how telcos are enabling seamless device connectivity across mobile networks.

He also talks about how the GSMA is bringing together operators and manufacturers on the world’s first network settings hub designed for the 5G era and beyond.


Myriad technologies, a multitude of devices

Mobile operators continue to invest in core network technologies while managing legacy networks. The focus is on more 5G deployments, expansion of 4G (particularly with the introduction of VoLTE) and the sunsetting of 2G and 3G networks – not forgetting discussing 6G requirements.

On top of this, IMS, APN, and radio (including 5G infrastructure) needs to work optimally to enable the desired network connectivity.

GSMA Intelligence’s Future of Devices report cites that there will be, ‘9.6 billion global mobile connections by 2030’ – across the spectrum of mobile technologies and device types.

All these changes, new device technologies, network requirements, changing customer behaviour and proliferation of connected devices, contribute to shaping a diverse and growing device ecosystem.

Operators and device ecosystem players must constantly evolve and collaborate to offer sophisticated offerings that are compatible with this complex infrastructure.


One setting doesn’t fit all!

These complex infrastructure choices are driven by various technical and commercial imperatives, making each mobile network unique. Each device needs to be tailored to optimally work on networks it could potentially show up on.

Central to this are network configuration settings for devices provided by the operators for their respective networks. The variety of network configuration strategies that mobile devices routinely encounter is considerable. Yet they are expected to perform on every network in the world without issue. One set of network settings, however, would not fit all devices or vice versa.


Device to network settings mapping – the many-to-many problem

The lives of device manufacturers and mobile operators would be easier if the same network setting could be used across all devices on all potential networks. But this is not the case, and it poses an interesting challenge:

  • A device manufacturer must accommodate different network settings on their devices so when this device appears on a mobile network it is pre-provisioned to work optimally on this network.
  • A mobile operator (MNO or MVNO/MVNE) needs to make subscriber devices aware of their preferences and update them as they undertake network evolution programmes. This is regardless of whether the device is bought from them or an open-market device.


Maintaining partner relations – a complex task

There are thousands of mobile networks globally, and likewise, thousands of device manufacturers. All need to be on top of their network settings game regardless of the device types or networks involved. Keeping track of the number of operators and their respective device settings through a bilateral relationship is a complex task:

  • Typically, the bigger operators will have bilateral arrangements with each big manufacturer, however, not with all.
  • Smaller operators struggle to have bilateral arrangements with big manufacturers but may have specific arrangements with smaller manufacturers.


Is there an easier way?

The GSMA Terminals Steering Group (TSG) through PRD TS.32 built a framework for manufacturers and mobile network operators to help them configure devices. So, the devices can support the customer with the services being promoted and offered by the operator. The GSMA PRD includes 500 plus network settings covering GSM, LTE, IMS, APN and 5G.

The GSMA also offers the Network Settings Exchange (NSX) service, which brings together operators and manufacturers through a central hub – the first of its kind. Operators can share their network settings with the device manufacturers of their choice using a common standard format. Device manufacturers can pre-configure the devices as per the shared network settings of each operator on the hub.


Why use the NSX service?

  • A big operator can reach out to all other manufacturers it does not have a direct relationship with.
  • A mid-tier or smaller operator can share its network settings with all the big manufacturers for implementation.

This ensures better coverage and greatly increases the chance that the settings are implemented. As of September 2023, 151 operators and 662 device manufacturers had signed up to the service. Sharing and downloading a total of 21,612 files with an average of 917 files downloaded per month.

How to engage with the GSMA?

Any member operator or manufacturer can participate in TSG and enable updates to the TS.32 PRD to include more network settings for devices. Likewise, anyone using the NSX Service can recommend enhancements ideas to the service by submitting this form to the NSX helpdesk.


Read more about GSMA NSX here and contact us here.