By Ben Bannister, Product Marketing Director
LTE/4G adoption is now imminent for most wireless communications service provider (CSPs). However, the move to a next-generation service environment will dramatically increase complexity around interoperability and wholesale partner management.
Interoperability issues are created, not by LTE itself, but during the ongoing transition phase towards the full adoption of LTE and its acceptance as a ubiquitous standard, which is likely to take several years. During this transition period, multiple different technologies continue to need to be supported – GSM, CDMA, Wi-Fi, to name a few – and CSPs will require continuing mechanisms for inter-standard roaming and interoperability management.
With increasing interoperability demands being placed on CSPs, both through the introduction of LTE and the rise of unregulated Wi-Fi roaming, there is a requirement for a seamless approach to service validation and billing information between the different network types. From a subscriber’s point of view, it is far easier to access data services over a Wi-Fi connection if these services are integrated into the subscriber’s overall mobile experience with seamless logon. In this way, the subscriber does not have to re-activate their access to a service if they switch between cellular and Wi-Fi access. This requires inter-standard roaming between the various network technologies to ensure seamless handover and automatic authentication. The bigger challenge here is not a technical one, but a commercial one. Can CSPs, whether GSM or WISP (Wireless Internet Service Provider), agree commercial revenue share terms on a bi-lateral basis?
This model is best served through the adoption of an interoperability and settlement hub approach, managed by a 3rd party, thus extending the GSMA open connectivity hub model to embrace both the GSM and WISP communities. Such a model would operate in much the same way as for standard hubs, with each member having a single point of access to the hub community, with data clearing, traffic correlation and revenue settlement managed centrally. The model ensures cash-flow advantage and equity for large and small service providers alike. A cloud-based service environment, with full transparency in terms of reporting, audit and self-management, yields efficiency improvements in the way that interoperability is managed and in the way that revenue settlement is delivered.